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Another somewhat uninspiring match from the USMNT who managed the very physical, fairly dirty encounter with El Salvador. The USA should have gone up around the half hour mark when Captain America Clint Dempsey fed a lovely ball to Gyasi Zardes to chip past the keeper. However Zardes was wrongly flagged for offside. It looked to be heading to halftime scoreless before Omar Gonzalez popped up in the middle of the box to narrowly flick home a Michael Bradley free kick delivery. It wasn’t long after when, a couple minutes into first half stoppage time, Eric Lichaj started and finished a fantastic team goal. Lichaj had a nice tackle and distribution on one end only to run the near-length of the field to slot home after Dempsey made a panty-dropping turn and cool pass to feed the right back to finish through the keeper’s legs.

3 thoughts:

More changes, more of the same: It was thought that bringing the big guns in from MLS would bring some cohesion and precision from the squad. While things improved on the night, they were far from perfect. There were still too many lackadaisical passes, even from the star players, and it’s fair to say El Salvador deserved a goal on the night. There was still a good bit of sloppiness as the defense looked out of sorts at times and struggled to deal with the Central Americans speed and tenacity.

Physical battle, referee loses control- I’m no fan of bashing referees or blaming them for results. Having been one myself, I understand the turmoil they go through and the stick they get by the second from coaches, players, and fans alike. HOWEVER, there is never an excuse for losing control of a game, regardless of the occasion. Last night the El Salvadorians punched, bit, pushed, and purple-nurpled their way through the game. Now, while none of that is ok, and while it should be reviewed by CONCACAF, it is completely naive to think this is new to the U.S. The Central American countries don’t like us. Period, and they never have. The USA always goes through physical contests with sub-par referees all the time, especially in WCQ and the Gold Cup. That’s nothing new and it frustrates me that Stu Holden and Landon Donovan, having played in these types of matches, acted like this isn’t the standard for them. I have nothing wrong with a physical battle, but it was clear the El Salvadorians crossed the line. In fact they crossed it farther than Ndamukong Suh does on a game by game basis. But that isn’t anything new, nor is the piss-poor refereeing, so let’s all accept that and move on.

Underestimating but still through to the semis- The USA had the easiest opponent they could have asked for. Out of potentially facing Costa Rica, or even comparing to the other match-ups on the other side of the bracket, the USA was always likely to win last night. However, it was far from an easy match and Costa Rica, while not looking great in their quarterfinal win, will be far tougher opponents.

 

http://www.goal.com/en-india/news/105/main/2017/07/20/37192212/usa-player-ratings-gonzalez-excels-in-gold-cup-quarterfinal    Far too high on Hedges, but generally I can agree with these.

https://www.starsandstripesfc.com/gold-cup/2017/7/19/15928574/usa-2-0-el-salvador-2017-gold-cup-player-ratings     Ok I gotta get what this guy is smoking. First off learn to spell Bruce Arena’s name right, it’s called editing. Secondly, Gonzalez’s grade and analysis is all kinds of wrong. Thirdly if you’re going to bash Hedges then give him something lower than a damn 5! You bash him and suggest he had an average game. Rest of the grades are alright.

http://www.espnfc.com/team/united-states/660/blog/post/3161017/us-disjointed-but-kept-cool-to-beat-el-salvador-in-gold-cup-quarterfinal  Generally agree with ESPN but again, Gonzalez far too low.

My Ratings:

Howard 6- Commanded his box well and had to be very alert just 3 minutes in to halt a breakaway after Lichaj made an abysmal backward pass. Didn’t have a ton to do on the night outside of watching a few shots skip wide.

Morrow 6- Decent night from the left back. He was beaten on at least one occasion but overall commanded his side well and got forward sporadically. Gotta get rid of that haircut though.

Hedges 2- Once again a useless night from the former MLS defensive player of the year. Got beat a number of times, got caught out of position, and was useless in defense. Had one solid tackle of note that saves his grade ever so slightly but to agree with Alexi “Big Red” Lalas that Hedges was good on the night, is ludicrous.

Gonzalez 7- Good strong night from the big central defender. Was a force to be reckoned with in the back clearing out multiple chances from the visitors, and went all janitorial cleaning up Hedges’ messes. Also found himself on the score sheet after heading home a free kick to open the scoring. It was his 3rd ever international goal, all of which have come in the Gold Cup.

Lichaj 6- Off an on night for the lanky right back. At times looked good in defense and others he looked very suspect. Struggled a bit with the pace of the visitors but found himself winning a majority of the battles. Gets a decent boost for starting and finishing off the USA’s second goal of the night for his first international goal.

Bradley 5- The hairless veteran wasn’t necessarily bad on the night as he didn’t seem to put a foot wrong. He just wasn’t seen much throughout the match. Was seldom involved in the attack and really didn’t put much of a defensive shift in either. Generally stayed home around the center circle distributing balls around the pitch. Did pick up the assist on a lovely free kick.

Zardes 5- I would say he lost the majority of the battles with Tamacas on the left flank. Couldn’t do much to get around the young defender but the Galaxy man did see a fair bit of the ball throughout. Linked up pretty well with Morrow, though he faded in the second half. Deserved a goal that was wrongly called offside.

Arriola 6- Definitely looked strong out of the gate, being feisty and getting after the loose balls. Was involved heavily in the attack the opening 15 minutes and then faded out for most of the rest of the first half. Was on hand to celebrate the two goals but couldn’t rediscover his passion in the second half and was yanked before 90 minutes was up.

Nagbe 7- The Liberian born American was the best player in the midfield and arguably our best field player on the night. Fought after every ball, linked up wonderfully with the entire midfield, made some great darting runs and showed off his pace well. I do agree with Fernando in the fox sports studio, that his decision-making could use a little tweaking. Either held the ball too long or needed to get off a shot.

Dempsey 7- Captain American didn’t find the back of the net but unleashed a solid shot that was well saved. Should have had a 2 assists on the night if the AR wasn’t incompetent but settled for one after daftly turning one of the El Salvadorian defenders, then laying it off for Lichaj to finish.

Altidore 4- Granted this low grade isn’t necessarily his fault. He just couldn’t get himself into this game. Couldn’t get the space or time on the ball and didn’t receive the service he needed. Did have one good hold-up play and shot but it ended up being tame in the end. Had to overcome getting bitten and nipple-twisted along with other dirty treatment from the visitors.

Arena 5- Overall while I didn’t love the players he sent home, bringing in the veterans was a smart move. That being said, neither Bradley or Altidore did much on the night and the team still lacked the whole “team” aspect for big portions of the night. All this constant changing of the lineups will never allow us to compete with the big European sides when it matters. It’s frustrating but I don’t necessarily see it changing.

Subs:

Morris 5- Came on in an odd switch for Arriola with about 25 minutes to go. Got arm-checked in the box but beyond that wasn’t able to really get himself into the game.

Acosta 3- Came on with 20 minutes left and had enough time to commit a foul and a horrid giveaway. Shored up defensively well-enough.

Pontius 4- Didn’t even realize he was in the game until he got a touch but that was all from the Union man in a brief cameo.

 

All in all the U.S is on to the semifinals to face the Ticos. Again it wasn’t a clean match in more ways than one but it was what the USA needed. Still haven’t seen anywhere near the best out of this team and if the starting lineup we saw was the A-team of this squad, than there will need to be vast improvements before Saturday’s match in Texas.

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