Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Olympic Qualifying: US limps to 1-1 tie with Cuba

US 1-1 Cuba

The US U-23 men did not get their tournament off to a good start last night as they fluttered their way to a 1-1 tie with Cuba. Although they opened up the match with a very impressive first 15-minutes, the next hour saw the team combine poor passing with lack of aggression and sub-par play in the midfield. Cuba was able to exploit these openings and earn a goal.

If there is some good news for coach Peter Nowak it was the final 15-minutes of play as his team finally started playing together again. Sure enough, once they stopped trying to pass the ball through the Cuban players, they started having much better luck.

Now to breakdown the match:

The Good
Freddy Adu - He was by far the best player on the pitch. His free kicks were dangerous and his skill was obvious, however he disappeared during the final 20-minutes of the first half. Still, he was the threat.

Dax McCarty - Okay, his first half was not the best, but he improved as the match went on. It was his attacking and pressure that woke the team up in the second half.

Sacha Kljestan - He provided some good speed and found his spots.

Chris Seitz - Made a few quality saves to keep a shock result from taking place. Was screaming at his back line trying to get them organized.

The Bad
Charlie Davies - When did Carlos Ruiz start playing for the US? Every time anyone looked at Davies, he drops to the ground to eat some dirt. His dive in the box when he had a great opportunity to score on an open goal was a major mistake. Combine this with his poor passing and it was not a great night.

Chad Barrett - He gave away the ball, missed his marks and never got into the flow.

Patrick Ianni - How did he not get a boot on the pass that lead to Cuba's goal? Also, how did Cuba cause such havoc in front of goal? He did show a little better later in the match.

Robbie Findley - He died out on the wing. He was fast but he showed little ball control and had few decent centers on the night.

The Questions
Jozy Altidore - Was he just exhausted from being the lone striker or does his game not fit well with Adu's? If the midfield gave him more balls, would his night have been better? He looked tanked after the first 20-minutes, but so did a number of other US players, so is this a sign of lack of fitness?

Maurice Edu - Was he missing so much because he was dropping back to cover for defensive mistakes?

Peter Nowak - Five forwards in the starting lineup yet leaving Altidore alone up top?

And that's the way the US U-23s looked to me. They return to action on Thursday night against Panama. What changes will Nowak make to his lineup? Will Altidore again be alone up top? Will Jonathan Spector come in to sure up their back line?

Right now, I still think they have it in them to win the group, but I'm not sure they will have enough to make it to the final and win a spot in Beijing.

Oh, one last thing, what was up with referee Walter Lopez and his red card to Cuban Roberto Lines? His first yellow was for slapping the corner flag after scoring the goal. His second yellow was for popping in a shot less then a second after the offside whistle blew. I can see giving him a warning on the second one but a second yellow is the sign of an overeager ref.

USA – Freddy Adu (Robbie Findley) 14th
Cuba – Roberto Linares (Yordany Alvarez) 42nd

Starting lineup:






Sacha Kljestan on for Altidore in the 46'
Chad Barrett on for Davies in the 61'
Eddie Gaven on for Findley in the 77'

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