United States vs Jamaica
I would slightly disagree with a portion of the TV analysis from the play-by-play announcers, Stuart Holden and Landon Donovan. Essentially, by halftime, they each critiqued the team for too much possession and not enough urgency in the attacking zone, wanting to see them get to scoring chances quicker.
They were right in that it would be nice to see more goals, but this gets tricky. Once a team is told to be quicker in the attacking third, they tend to rush things. Rushing things causes less quality chances on goal. Patience is better. Sticking to what they were doing will result in more goals over time. It's a little like Warren Buffet's approach to investing: Don't listen to the yelling voices telling you to swing.
On a small level, what I disagree with is that it was by far the best USMNT game in a few years. By best, I mean the way the players possessed the ball. So in affect, the way they played, not so much actual scoring chances. The players – who may have been inexperienced in some cases, according to Holden and Donovan – were working the half court game, asserting their authority on the field with patience, discipline and multiple short passing combinations, working the ball across the field, giving the Jamaicans practically zero time to figure anything out. All of which is essential for future success. They conquered possession for possession’s sake on this night, with a touch of panache. For most American sports fans, watching such a thing can be boring. This sentiment is well-taken from Holden and Donovan, however, boring possession for possession’s sake will yield more scoring chances and thus, more goals.
Furthermore, Holden, being a good announcer, which, for the most part he is…let’s just say, he’s better than Marcelo Balboa…but, regardless, Holden praised Fabian Johnson and his stellar performance in 2014. Is anybody ever going to be critical of players that do not have stellar performances? I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand the love affair with Fabian Johnson. He's decent, but Yedlin and Shea are far superior players. To applaud the greatness of F. Johnson is following a long line of mysterious-American-soccer-analysis, dating back to the days of the most overpraised US player of all time, one Mr. Jeff Agoos. Nice guy, but his longevity with the USMNT, which was close to fifteen years, was a complete mystery. Announcers would applaud his mistakes, turning them into victories. Literally, turning them into victories. Every mistake was like an excerpt from the strange world of 1984. "He didn't just kick the ball out of bounds. It was a brilliant cultured left foot that you had the pleasure of witnessing." Thanks Seamus Malin.* Agoos was an athletic guy, but I've never seen anyone deflect criticism like he did. None of this makes sense to the people of earth.
At center midfield, Feilhaber and McCarty were a fresh relief from Bradley and Jones. Then, Bradley and Nagbe – who subbed in for Feilhaber and McCarty – were a fresh relief from Bradley and Jones. Sorry to spoil the Jermaine Jones party, but he’s got to go. He’s far too impatient for the possession for possession’s sake approach, and his passes aren’t as accurate as they should be. The direction of US soccer needs to look more like the performance tonight – with the regular installment of Yedlin, Shea, Nagbe, Torres and Nguyen, to name a few – and less like the past seven years.
It was a great performance by a team trying to find its way in a time crunch with the March World Cup Qualifier, which is an important opportunity for the US to get out of their current position in the Hex, which is dead last.
A few position discrepancies were calling out for criticism, but, by and large, Arena coached the players well, or, he’s benefitting from the long-standing establishment of the MLS and all the experience it has provided US players…in competition with foreign talent, thus allowing players to take in the trends of the modern game, which showed tonight.
The big test will be in March, with Honduras. So far, so good for Bruce 2.0 who – admittedly – has benefitted from years of MLS, and the time to reflect on his second chance with the USMNT.
*He went to Harvard, so, maybe he was right. He also wanted Roberto Carlos, of Brazil, to stop all the fancy shenanigans and just play the game. The same Roberto Carlos who has a World Cup title. That's what we want, Seamus...a World Cup title.