CARSON, Calif. - The United States’ opening match of 2011 was not about winning or losing but rather how a batch of inexperienced players performed with a three-week training camp behind them against a formidable opponent.
While the 1-1 draw against Chile on Saturday may not be enough to please some supporters, how U.S. coach Bob Bradley handled the inexperienced players and how he allowed them to perform was what will linger most from this match.
What Was Good?
The best move of the match for Bradley was bringing on Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo at the same time. With Chile ahead 1-0 in the 60th minute, Bradley turned to two of the players many were anxious to see play, and the duo did not disappoint. Agudelo drew a penalty that Bunbury converted for the match equalizer.
Bradley gave Zach Loyd the start at left back, and Loyd was impressive in his 70-plus minutes on the field. Loyd presumably had a better camp than Anthony Wallace or AJ De La Garza and showed that he was not too young to handle the rigors of international play.
D.C. United’s new midfielder, Dax McCarty, was handed the captain’s armband and the number 10 shirt and he did well to live up to both. McCarty had the Americans’ first attempt on goal and was his usual hard-working self in the middle of the field.
Alejandro Bedoya and Mixx Diskerud were given freedom – the latter more than the former – and the two Scandinavia-based players did well to live up to their expectations. Bedoya grew stronger as the game went on while Diskerud showed flashes while playing an overall strong match. Bradley’s faith in the two bodes well for their respective futures and for the possible future of both the U.S. national team and, in the 20-year-old Diskerud’s case, potentially the 2012 Olympic squad.
What Was Poor?
While Bunbury and Agudelo showed quite a bit of promise over the last half hour, it may have been better to have seen the duo out there from the start. Chris Wondolwoski and Brek Shea were removed for Bunbury and Agudelo, and while the San Jose and FC Dallas standouts held their own against Chile, their respective play did not match the energy and spark Bunbury and Agudelo created.
Removing Omar Gonzalez at halftime was also a bit surprising, considering Gonzalez’s replacement. Marvell Wynne looked out of position in central defense for the United States and allowed the ball to get past him on Chile’s goal.
Had this been a game whose result mattered, Nick Rimando would never have been removed. While Chile’s goal wasn’t Sean Johnson’s fault, Real Salt Lake’s Rimando outperformed his Chicago Fire counterpart.
What Should Be Done Next Match?
The United States’ next game is on Feb. 9 in Cairo against Egypt, which falls on a FIFA international fixture date. While Bradley will be free to select the top players – Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, et al. – Bradley could and possibly should take some of the young players to Cairo for the match. Agudelo and Bunbury should be included in the roster, if nothing else because the duo adds excitement and spark to a position that sorely needs it.
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