Using his Europe-based players for the first time since the FIFA Confederations Cup and the close South Africa 2010 qualifying, USA coach Bob Bradley watched his men slump 2-1 to the Dutch in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening. The friendly was always going to be a tricky contest for the American coach, without influential centre-back Oguchi Onyewu, attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey and striker Charlie Davies – all to serious injuries – and still shuffling his pack in defence, midfield and attack.
“It was a good test for us and I think overall we played well,” said Bradley after his side conceded a Dirk Kuyt penalty five minutes before the interval and another deflected goal, from substitute Klass Jan Huntelaar in the 73rd minute, before captain Carlos Bocanegra reduced the arrears with a brave header in the dying moments. “The collective effort was pretty solid. There were moments where it needed to be sharper, quicker and better and we still need to raise the bar. Late in the game it was nice to see a good push. We had the ability to move the ball forward get people running off it and we created some good opportunities.”
A win on the road in Amsterdam against the Dutch, world powers and the first European side to qualify for next year’s 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, was always going to be a big ask for the injury-hit Americans. Even though his side’s performance was creditable, Bradley will not be pleased with yet another injury suffered. Stuart Holden, himself filling in for the injured Dempsey, is expected to be out for at least six weeks after suffering a leg fracture under a heavy tackle from Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong.
It was also a difficult day for left-back Jonathan Bornstein, who conceded the first-half spot-kick after a silly foul on the outstanding Wesley Sneijder and had the ball bobble off his backside and trickle into the goal for the second. Bundesliga-based Steve Cherundolo, however, is set to return soon from injury and will give the coach options in defence. In midfield, the coach will be bolstered by a return to form for DaMarcus Beasley. The Rangers man had been out of favour for some time, but put in a good shift after coming on for Holden.
“You were able to see his mobility and a little bit of his quickness,” Bradley said of Beasley, who was relegated to the bench after a poor showing at the start of last year’s Confederations Cup, in which the USA eventually reached the final. “He had the confidence of being a threat and put defenders on their heels. Those are good things and hopefully they can be built upon,” added the wide man, whose free-kick set up the late consolation goal for Bocanegra.
Landon Donovan, who has been wowing the Goodison faithful since the start of his loan deal at English Premier League outfit Everton, had precious few touches on the ball and was largely unable to stamp his authority on the proceedings. “I thought we did OK,” said the all-time USA top goalscorer. “We had some moments in the first half that were OK but I don’t think we put enough pressure on them. You always know that when you come here and play them that they’re going to have a lot of the ball and you hope that at some key moments you make some plays going forward. It took us too long in the second half before we made some real plays.”
Jozy Altidore, who partnered Robbie Findley and Eddie Johnson, both candidates to take over for the injured Charlie Davies should he not return in time for the finals, had a chance near the end to draw level. “The subs made a great impact," he said. "They did what they were supposed to do. Alejandro Bedoya, DaMarcus Beasley, Clarence Goodsen, Maurice Edu, they all came on and did what they had to do. They impacted the game big time and we almost equalised.”
In all, Bradley has reason to be positive. Having had ample opportunity to evaluate his domestic and European-based players, the coach is planning to name his squad for South Africa 2010 well ahead of the FIFA deadline in early June. “We have a little more time where we're sizing up form and assessing injuries but certainly there is a nucleus of guys. There are players who have played big roles throughout qualifying and players who continue to be in the picture for us. There are always going to be tough decisions. As a staff we're committed to seeing as many games as we can and we have a lot of work to do to make sure we can make all the decisions that give us the best chance [in South Africa].”
The Americans next play Czech Republic in Connecticut on 25 May before concluding their South Africa 2010 tune-ups against the Turkey four days later in Philadelphia. In South Africa, they open on 12 June against England in Rustenburg and follow up with games against Algeria and Slovenia.