US 3 T&T 0

While as a general rule I can pretty much watch and enjoy just about any National Team game you want to strap me to a chair and show me, I must say that I found this match to be more frustrating and aggravating than fun. And itís not the score that bothers me, T&T was in a bunker and our best options at bunker breaking either started the game out of position or were watching the match from Rochester, so I really couldnít care from the final score - they did what they needed to do to win and ultimately, you can stop reading this report right here, because thatís all that matters. So itís not the result that I found troubling. Itís the way they played that bothered me. Itís that we saw 10 players running around trying to score goals and all 10 players seemed to have different ideas about how to go about doing that. I prefer to watch a team trying to score rather then a bunch of individuals roaming around trying to figure something out on their own. And it doesnít matter how weak an opponent youíre playing, at this level, 10 individuals just canít get it done.

I knew it was going to be a real long game, though, as soon as I saw them take the field with Foudy back out on the right. She was the best thing in the Mexico match and it was because she was back in the center of the field where she can be most effective. Maybe the intention was to take the hot player and put her out right so that the team could work on using the entire field - the fact Lil played about 20 minutes of the first half out right lends a little bit of support to that and sure enough where Lil goes, the game followed. Regardless of whether that was the intent or whether for some inexplicable reason it is more important to find a way to keep Tiffany Roberts in the lineup than it is to field the best team possible and in as dispassionate terms as I can use about how I felt about this one: it seemed to me that what worked well in the Mexico game, they just trashed. They tried to go back to it at about the 35th minute or so, but by that point, after everyone had been playing the game on different pages, no player, not even Captain Foudy was going to be able to rein them all back in. Itís impossible. All I ever ask is to see progression and I think from the outset I was so disappointed that they went back to what wasnít working for several games rather than building on what did work in the last outing that my whole view of the match is probably a little tainted.

All that said, I donít have a lot negative to say about the individual performances. My problem wasnít the way individuals were playing itís that they were playing individually. So the players section wonít be too bad. Individually, most players managed to play just fine - what was disappointing is that as a team, they were lacking. There was no offensive shape, there was very little meaningful/successful combination play, and with Roberts in the middle, the speed of play out of the back was woefully slow - T&T had all the time in the world to not only get 10 players behind the ball, but to read exactly where the ball was going to be. But individually, it wasnít that bad a match and as always there were some fun moments. Hopefully, the next one will be a step forward rather than a misstep and an attempt late in the first half to get back to where they were before the match even started.

Formation - 4-4-2 back-front, right-left

GK - Scurry; D - Sobrero, Fawcett (happy 200th!!!), Chastain, Reddick; DMid - Roberts; Mid - Foudy, Lilly; AMid - Parlow (although she was so far forward and did so little in the midfield she was a barely withdrawn forward - but the few times the team found their shape - and it was very few times, both Mac and Hamm were ahead of her); F - Hamm, MacMillan (why? why? why on the left? why do we pretend - they switch back and forth and she was right for much of the time but why do they do that to her - they know she canít play out there, she had another sad shot from the left in this one, Milburn was generous and said it was a bad angle - to which I said to no one in particular, yeah, left side of the field, thatís all a bad angle for her). Subs - Milbrett in for Hamm, Fair in for Roberts, Wagner in for Sobrero and the US switches to a 3-4-3, with Parlow up top and in the middle (I assume thatís where she was, didnít see a whole bunch of her in the second half, did we) and Wagner and Foudy in the central mid (at times it looked like they were trying to keep that diamond mid even with three forwards and both TR/Fair and Lil stretched wide - in those instances, Aly moved forward and Foudy fell back) with Joy sliding to right back.

Players

Scurry - A Prayer for Owen Meany . . . The 50th Anniversary Peanuts Collection, you can never have enough Snoopy . . . The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos (A Bloom County Collection) . . . anyone else want to add anything to the reading list? Ummmmm . . . I liked the green jersey I think she was wearing in Nike Cup better than the yellow she wore here - black shorts and side panels on a yellow shirt looks a little too bumble bee for my taste . . . . Ummmm, hm - yup, thatís all I got.

Sobrero - Just a solid night defending for Kate. Didnít really notice that anyone on defense other than Joy was getting real involved offensively in this match. She made a few runs - I didnít laugh at her even once, so she must have looked just fine as she was moving forward - but more of the game was played in front of her and completely without her involvement than in other recent outings so she didnít have as much opportunity to be part of the offensive effort. Defensively I thought she was having an especially strong night ball winning. She was just taking and tackling away everything that dared venture in her general vicinity. Solid outing - I donít have much on any of the defenders.

Joy - First sure sign that TR didnít have the command of the field Foudy did against Mexico? Look at how involved Joy was in the offense early in the first half. She was doing a lot of the decision making, she was the one switching the field, she was the one winning 50-50 balls and pushing the ball forward. Against T&T thatís fine - go nuts, Joy, have fun. Against better teams, sheís not going to be able to help the defensive midfielder with the offensive decision making so much. The central defenders should be getting into the attack where opportunities arise - it shouldnít be out of necessity because the defensive middie isnít playing fast enough and all the attackers are in the process of moving off sides and having to double back lest the arm go up and the whistle blow. Joy is good at making these decisions, but that she was forced to, was yet one more indication that Team USA was truly lacking a coordinated attack in this one. Joy looked fine though - she was basically a wall in the air, batted plenty of balls back in. Not much to do on set pieces because minus the ones the US scored on, the corners were kind of weak in this outing. So a solid night, but with very little for her to do. Since quiet nights are what you wish for your central defenders I hope Joy has many more like this one.

Brandi - I have even less here. I donít know if I even noticed her more than a half dozen times the whole game. Nice header - nice to reward the defenders with a ball on a set piece and she made the most of it. It was just a quiet quiet night for the defense though. Other than that, Iím not even going to pretend, I got nothiní.

Reddick - She played a nice game. Defensively, I think sheís the only one of the defenders I noticed they were attacking toward. I thought she handled herself well. No one got behind her and she was able to take care of everything that came her way. Very solid defensively. Offensively, I really didnít notice that she was getting forward too much - minus Joy taking care of some distribution responsibilities in the middle of the field in the early going I really didnít notice any of the defenders getting forward a whole lot. The lack of an organized attack may have fed into this a bit or maybe the offensive half of the field looked so jam packed with players they decided not to add to the madness. I did enjoy Reddickís rocket blast of a shot though - Iíd have to look again, but I think the keeper might have gotten a hand on that and helped it find the cross bar a little bit. Regardless, it was a beaut. I always like to see a defender with a nice hard shot who can deliver that shot without booting it 10 feet over the goal. Nice solid outing for Cat - I continue to like what I see from this kid - seems to have a good head on her shoulders and manages to avoid the knucklehead moments that plague so many young wing defenders.

Roberts - There is no denying that she plays better in the defensive midfield than out right. But I also think thereís no denying that the US is not as good a team when she plays that defensive midfield as it is when Foudy plays it. I wish I could take video from Foudy in the game against Mexico and superimpose it over TR in this one. This position should be dictating the pace of the entire team - against Mexico in the first half, thatís the way it worked. Foudy collects the ball and moves the ball along instantaneously - with TR she gets possession, only then does she look up, look around and try to figure out where to put the ball . . . and ultimately she winds up making a rushed pass that the defense is prepared for because all the time sheís spent looking around, theyíve been looking around too. What makes Julie Foudy one of the best midfielders in the history of the game is that it is almost instinctual for her to know where that ball should go. If you think this is all nitpicking, itís really not - itís the difference between Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow and Tiffeny Milbrett having an extra couple of yards of space and an extra couple of seconds in which to move - itís the difference between the double and triple team being on its way, and them already being there. At this level, the difference in the speed of play of Julie Foudy and Tiffany Roberts is huge and that difference trickles all the way down to every single player on the field . They just get far fewer realistic chances when the pace of the game is slower and to pick up the pace of the game, Julie Foudy needs to be in control. OK - so TR played the first 30-35 minutes in the defensive midfield and I wasnít real thrilled but she was more active and did look much better than against Mexico - I just donít think the team plays as well when TR is in the defensive midfield as it does when Foudy is in the middle of the field. Hereís the crazy thing though - when Roberts and Foudy switched, toward the end of the first half and Lil went back left and TR wound up on the right - I thought she had a real solid game. Maybe she was relieved that she didnít have the responsibility of directing the offense anymore, maybe she was just happy that Lil, Foudy and Joy were no longer right on top of her snatching the ball from her so they could bypass her trying to get the offense started, but she really loosened up once she moved out there. She and Mac found each other nicely, she was making some nice takeaways and there was actually quite a bit of activity out right. Basically, she had a fairly solid outing, but I donít think the team is at its strongest when she is the defensive midfielder. Which leads me to ask - is the point to find a way for TR to play, or is the point to field the best team possible?

Foudy - if she started out right to get more activity out there then mission accomplished because the US used the entire field. But basically, I think itís a waste - I thought it was silly that I watched a few games where Foudy was playing out right for SD while rookie Lori Lindsey ran the offense (and how many games did SD win last year?) And I think itís even sillier at this level. She was right, then she was left, then after about 7-10 minutes of Lil and Foudy acting in concert to completely shut TR out of the offense she moved back to the center of the midfield for good. US still had no offensive shape, but at least they were playing a little faster and since the little whirlwind whose presence has been so sorely missed in the last few games entered the game in the late going, the US finally managed to get something working offensively. It was still more individual effort than concerted effort by an entire team, but at least folks were in better positions to make the most of what other folks were doing. Basically, a solid outing for Foudy but Iíve got more shoulda woulda coulda comments about her game than comments about the game she played. Hopefully, for everyoneís sake sheís back in the defensive midfield Saturday (and since they did move her back there before the end of the first half and thatís where she stayed I have to believe the coaching staff is thinking that the middle of the field is good for her as well). . . if for no other reason than so all you nice people still reading at this point donít have to listen to me whine about this again . . .

Lilly - I donít have just a ton. Solid, typical Lilly performance - after 15 years of consistently excellent play sometimes thereís just not much more to add. Played about 20 minutes of the first half on the right and as you might expect, she made the dead zone come alive. And to show the impact she has on the tactics of the entire team, the whole dang team managed to work on the right in her wake. Maybe just throw her out there for 10-15 minutes a game - is that really all it takes to open the field up? TR had the best 30-35 minutes out right that sheís had, Mac while still tactically disappointing, was spreading out wide right and sending in those booming crosses of hers that make me so happy (where the heck has that been - why hasnít she been doing that?), and while concerted action was scarce, one thing they did manage to do in this game was use the whole field. So overall, a solid Lilly-like performance (minus one truly horrid corner kick and several other subpar set pieces - not a good set piece night for Lil) and while the impact she has on a game might be subtle, itís always there.

Parlow - Not a 90 minute player, not even close. Was her name called at all the last half hour of this game? Did we see her at all other than watching her walking back up the field after the ball went over the endline and they were moving up field for the goal kick? She just disappeared. This was not a strong outing for CP. Her goal was great, she dribbles and spins in tight spaces remarkably well - no, Abby Wambach never would have been able to do that. But what this game showed me is why Abby needs to be on this team. I was all on board with Abby not making the roster because Abby had a bad Nike Cup - I understood that - didnít necessarily agree with it, but when Abby made that turnover in the waning seconds of the Australia game, I knew the presumption had changed for her and that if she didnít show something, she wasnít going to be on the Gold Cup roster. But seeing that we have 5 strikers on the team and all 5 play the exact same game (with only slight variations and diverging skill levels) and that none of those strikers plays a style that lends itself to breaking a bunker defense and that the only offensive player over 5í6" (and thatís a very generous estimation of Foudyís height) is Cindy Parlow and she is consistently getting gassed 30 minutes in, it is ridiculous that Abby Wambach is not on this roster. Iím sorry that she canít dribble in tight spaces and isnít as technical as Mia Hamm (neither is Lil, Iíd like to point out, and sheís doing OK with her career, donítcha think?), but ya know, sometimes you just need a player whoís going to be on the end of the pass, whoís going take every half chance that gets to her, and whoís not only going to try to make that run to the back post, but whoís actually going to get there in time to make a play (as the ball went over the endline and CP finally came chugging into the picture way too late and Milburn made the comment, thereís Cindy Parlow, on that back post run all night long, am I the only one thinking - uhh, yeah, thereís Cindy Parlow, making that back post run way too late all night long . . . uh huh, sheís doing great not getting to that back post on time - go Cindy). You simply canít leave her on the field 90 minutes - sheís struggling at 45 minutes - Cindy Parlow has never been a 90 minute player at this level. Usually we have Wendy Gebauer on the mike making excuse after excuse for why CP isnít match fit, but the fact remains, for as long as Iíve been watching the Nats, CP isnít a 90 minute player, so why try to force it on her now. Put Abby on the roster and let them split time - they are such very different players Team USA is bound to get a goal a game just off the opponentís defense failing to adjust for that. I donít know - Team USA looked very very small to me in this one, CP was gassed and two games in a row now they desperately needed a big target player so that they could flight some balls over the bunker . . . The team just needs more versatility up top than it has. Not everyone has to be able to dribble like Mia Hamm. True, if Abby takes more than one touch before she passes or shoots then sheís held onto the ball too long, but in some of her pre-Nike Cup outings, she showed that sheís capable of playing fast enough and seeing the field well enough such that she wonít have to take more than that one touch. So thatís my Abby diatribe - I read earlier today that sheís been called in for the next match - I hope she hasnít been sitting on the couch eating bon bons. I hope she gets some playing time. I think it would be to CPís benefit not to have to go a full 90 and I think switching big girls mid game and having some situational lineups could really screw up opposing defenses.

Mac - BOOMING cross from Shannon Mac leading to CPís goal - how long has it been since Iíve been able to say that - it seems like forever. Man the right side has been dead - why hasnít she been doing this? Macís tactical ability continues to disappoint, her speed of play is nowhere near that of the other vets and she really doesnít play with her head up at all. But as Iíve said in the past, this is a player who can completely alter the game with one touch, so while I donít think sheís worthy of booting any of the forwards out of the starting lineup, Iím wondering if anyone else saw a few of those balls she smacked in from wide right and started thinkiní maybe Team USA should try playing her out there again. I donít think sheís going to get the tactical aspects of the position. Sheís never been a very tactical player period, let alone a tactical midfielder, but if what you expect from her is to send in those balls, take set pieces and to run through holes and smack the ball real hard - well, those are things Mac can do without even thinking. With Foudy in the defensive midfield, Mac wonít have to make decisions at all, just follow the ball. I have no idea how good a decision playing her right in the diamond midfield would be, but she drifted wide right quite a bit in this one and she did some very nice things while she was out there. I am officially curious. Overall, a fairly solid game, nice ball on CPís goal, and great corner on Millieís goal (set piece specialist, Mac should get that printed up on business cards). As nice an outing as weíve seen from Mac in the last few months.

Mia - well, I hope the injury isnít too severe. And before the T&T game I had hoped she wasnít going to play at all . . . although, she didnít get hurt the way I envisioned it - that collision was 100% her doing and while not a popular view, I think it could very easily have been a card on her. Iíve never seen a ref do as little to protect a keeper as the ref in this one did to protect the T&T keeper. Millie kinda knocked in the head on another play - at least the foul was called - a card should have come out though. The US strikers (Mia, Millie and Mac) and Lil seemed to be getting quite testy/frustrated in this one and there were more than a few cheap shots. Mia crashing into that keeper when she didnít have a chance in Hades of getting that ball was one of those shots. All that said, a knee injury is way too steep a price to pay - hopefully theyíre being overly cautious and sheíll be fine shortly. Other than that a quiet yet solid outing. She was fairly active up top, but the ball wasnít getting to her a lot. Great workrate . . . I really donít have much else and basically just want to get to . . .

Tiffeny Milbrett - now, I donít know what her fitness is, I donít know whatís up with the hip flexor, so Iím only going to say this once and Iím not going to belabor it: if thereís not enough room on Team USAís field for Tiffeny Milbrett, then they need to find a new field . . . itís as simple as that. OK - now, to her game. You know when you get home, and the dog is going nuts and banging on the back door just waiting to go out and as soon as you open the door, that dog is off like a shot - well, thatís what Tiff was like in this one - they took her off her little leash, opened the door and phoomph - sheís off. She is just a whirlwind - she moves at 100 mph every minute sheís out there - her leg speed is incredible - dizzying even - anyone else hypnotized by how fast she can turn her legs over - thatís how someone with such short little legs can be so ridiculously fast - amazing. Her presence on the field is just remarkable and the entire team perked up and looked more lively when she got out there. Everything she did made a difference. Her corner to Brandiís head was text book - couldnít have been more perfect. Her goal, tricky little back heel from Foudy (off of a Shannon Mac corner from the right - she does do a nice job on those set pieces) - just great field awareness and very opportunistic. For me, seeing her back out there really underscored whatís been missing for Team USA for the last few games - sheís just an exciting and dynamic player and you never know what to expect when sheís on the field.  Welcome back Tiff - I've missed you.

Fair - this is short - I got nothiní. Honestly, the game has faded a bit for me - thatís probably why Iím talking about what bugged me more than what I liked - in a game that wasnít remarkable for anything much, the stuff that bugs me inevitably stays with me longer.

Wagner - she was part of what ratcheted up the pace of the game a bit in the second half. I think we just put more tactically sophisticated players in the center of the field in the second half then we had in there for most of the first. I think she plays the attacking midfield role better than CP - CP drifts forward and thereís just no midfield support in the middle of the field when CP is there. And since CP was late on most of her runs up top, I have to wonder just what it was she was doing. Iím sure weíll see Aly back in that attacking midfield role soon enough - it was Joyís 200th and Iím sure Mac wanted to be on the field for it, and April has shown in the past that she makes accommodations for such things (think back to 2000 - Carla limped around the field and played in Lilís 200th). So maybe weíll see Aly back in the attacking midfield fairly shortly. Especially since I want to try Mac on the right anyway (yes, Iím putting both TR and Fair on the bench - I know, Iím dreaming, but hey, donít kill my dreams . . . not yet anyway - let me live in my little fantasyland a little bit longer . . .). So a nice outing - as always I look forward to seeing more.

Completely ran out of steam there at the end. Hopefully the next outing will be better - I hate writing these for games I didnít enjoy - they always come off much more negative than I actually feel about the game. And again, I want to stress - itís not the score that bothered me - itís that the team simply did not play together that bothered me. They were trying to win through the sheer force of their personality players rather than by being a good team. I felt that was a step back from what weíve seen for the last few outings and it showed an extreme lack of patience and frustration with having to play against a bunker. Well, hereís hoping it was just a bad game and the next one is better. As always, Iím looking forward to the next one.

Beulah


US v. Mexico Match Report

US v. Panama Match Report

US v. Costa Rica Match Report

US v. Canada Match Report