3/23: Morocco 1, USA 0
- Speaking of injury, let's hope Reyna's strained hamstring turns out to be minor. Much talk is often made Reyna's ability to "slow" the game down and "speed it up" (is he really the only guy on the team with this ability?), and while that sounds like a gross simplification of his game, there is no question that the U.S. is a better-organized team with him. Let's hope he bounces back.
- I'm not too sure I liked the pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Pope in the back. They played ok, but Pope is not as quick as he used to be, and Onyewu, for all of his physical presence, seems to be more useful when paired with a quicker defender. Hopefully we'll see what he can do with Cory Gibbs later this week.
- I also didn't particularly like Gibbs at left-back, either. He did ok defensively, but seemed entirely uncomfortable in supporting the attack. His failure to provide service hurt the U.S. gameplan, and it is clear that he is more useful in central defense.
- O'Brien looked decent out there, although I don't think he did anything to show himself worthy of starting ahead of Pablo Mastroeni.
- Clint Dempsey should start, if only because Steve Cherundolo was asked to do too much. Cherundolo had to provide service from the right as well as backtrack defensively, and he'll get burned out in the World Cup playing that way.
- By the same token, Landon Donovan should play up top, rather than on the right. The U.S. forwards stuggled in making runs and getting off shots, and Donovan was the only effective attacker last night. Furthermore, he seemed much more comfortable drifting to the middle, rather than staying out right. Let's make him a forward.
- Finally, John Harkes got it partially right when he said that fitness contributed to Morocco's late goal. Cherundolo was tired all right, and that was a fresh Moroccan substitute on his back, but how could no one criticize him for failing to make the simple pass back to Kasey Keller? Cherundolo lost the game as soon as he tried to make the play for himself. U.S. commentators need to stop treating the squad with kid gloves. Cherundolo will bounce back though.
So we have Venezuela on Friday, which will probably give us a different mix of players to look at. Overall, a decent kick in the face from a lesser Morocco side is probably what the U.S. needed. If we can raise our level of intensity before heading out to Germany, it will help matters immensely. Is the U.S. a little overconfident? Probably, but I also think they will challenge each other to play better over these next two matches. As the team gets in synch, I think we'll see a more effective unit.