When you think of USA vs. Argentina, the first thing that might come to your mind is ‘demolition’ or ‘crushing defeat’. As an avid US Soccer fan, those were the words I was hoping wouldn’t have to be thought about, talked about, whispered, anything at all. To my surprise, I turned on the Tivo to watch the game, and the US never once made me think such thoughts (I know, shock of my life).
The first 20 minutes were shaky, and we needed Tim Howard to step up a few times, but we held on. As time progressed, we started to combine, attack, keep possession. The US played the game I always knew they were capable of. The defense was solid, midfield was comfortable, attack was (well it was Eddie Johnson, what do you expect) well, poor. This unprecedented performance by the USA is a complete 180 from the game against England.
The Yanks committed countless turnovers, never had much going forward, and left some glaring holes in the defense at Wembley. Against Spain, they had some bright spots, but fell back and let Xavi beat them on a goal that was the result of some horrendous flat-footed defense. Against Argentina, there were attacking ideas, strong stringent defense, and timely goal keeping. Eddie Johnson forced Abondanzieri to slide out and save, Heath Pearce forced him into a diving save, Clint Dempsey’s deflected shot almost went in, and Oguchi Onyewu hit the crossbar. Although there were no goals, we came close, and in the second half, the US was getting an equal share of play.
I was not optimistic about the USMNT’s chances against Argentina, the #1 team in the World. Out of all of the friendlies the US played, Argentina would have to be the most difficult. The USA had been demolished by England, and manhandled by Spain, two teams that aren’t as good as Argentina, but The Yanks came out and showed what they are capable of.
Heath Pearce was a machine on the field. Nobody got by him at the left-back position, and he never turned the ball over. He also got up the wing and put in some extremely dangerous balls. He also tested Abondanzieri with a gorgeous strike; unfortunately, Abondanzieri was up to the test. Pearce cemented his spot at left back with a fantastic performance.
Damarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey are back. Both of them were poor against Spain and England, but were revitalized against Argentina. Beasley’s speed saw him run up the left wing, leaving defenders in his wake. His ability to spread the game out, and push up high, alleviated the pressure on the central midfielders, and allowed the team to have more time on the ball.
Dempsey was back to his normal self again. He was dangerous when he got the ball, and was constantly getting dragged down. His excellent ability to carry the ball and shield defenders was on display, and he almost won the US the game when his shot was deflected and missed the goal by a foot. Beasley and Dempsey left me bewildered in England and Spain, but gave strong performances against Argentina.
Landon Donovan returned from injury, and showed what the US lacked against England. Donovan is the poster boy of US Soccer, and he receives a lot of flack for it. He has never been successful in Europe, but his success for the US National Team is undeniable. He received his 100th cap last night, at the young age of 26. He was also the leading scorer in US history at the age of 25. He showed why he’s had so much success on the international stage against Argentina. At Wembley, we lacked the willingness to run at the defense, and take chances. Donovan, with his great speed took on Argentina with no hesitation. His pace troubled Argentina, and his ability to see the field and quickly combine was awesome. He is never afraid to take on a defender, no matter who it is. Having Donovan back helped the US put on a strong showing.
When the USA walked out onto the field, the capacity crowd cheered their lungs out. The supporters were clad in mostly red and white, something that doesn’t always happen in the US. Whether it was the fans, the excitement of playing the world’s best team, or Bob Bradley putting out the right lineup; The USA can be happy that they matched the play of Argentina. I can confidently say The Yanks are ready to begin World Cup qualifying against Barbados.