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What we learned from Sunday’s U.S. quarterfinal Gold Cup win over El Salvador

Jul 21, 2013, 6:55 PM EDT

Kevin Santamaria Guzman, Kyle Beckerman, Menjivar Peraza
  • Joe Corona may be lapping Jose Torres before our eyes:

Joe Corona and Jose Torres had strong matches Sunday, horizontal bookends of the wide areas in the United States attack. But in the end, who had the greater bottom line impact?

Once again, it was Corona, who moved aggressively into a goal-scoring spot, found a ball off Landon Donovan’s nifty footwork and proceeded to pinpoint a meaningful shot into the left corner of El Salvador’s goal.

Torres was adept in possession, as usual, and his switching balls in particular proved highly effective as a sharp U.S. attack found one opportunity after another in Sunday’s quarterfinal. But the knock on Torres internationally has always been his lack of final product. Jurgen Klinsmann has urged him to put all that abundant technical savvy to better use, to find more ways to grab the game, to create more, to shoot more, to take on defenders with further frequency, etc.

In other words, exactly what Corona has done this tournament.

(MORE: Game report — Landon Donovan’s goal, three assists lead U.S. past El Salvador)

When the serious roster allocation begins in the U.S. coaches’ minds, they’ll look at the two creators and quite possibly decide there is room on the 23-man U.S. roster for just one of them. We might be seeing Corona pull ahead in the race. Torres, after all, has had his chances.

  • A highly entertaining match – and what that means in the bigger picture:  

We can analyze the heck out of Sunday’s highly entertaining match, but this part needs no dissecting: it was an absolute delight to watch, a real plum for Fox to place into the big boy network spotlight. Play was tough but still managed to be open (thanks in large part to a guy like Donovan, who worked hard to find the right spots that helped create a lot of offense.)

Some of the credit for a lively contest also goes to Klinsmann. Leading by two goals in the first half, the U.S. boss urged his men to keep pushing, to “go, go, go!” Later, he kept making offensive-minded changes and encouraging players to move forward and think “forward,” even when ahead by scores of 3-1 and then 4-1.

This is all about the mentality Klinsmann is working hard to drive home: More professionalism, more of a business-like approach, never relinquishing tempo, further forging of a mentality that says “We are the boss of this region. Get used to it.”  Mashing the pedal when ahead is one way to do it.

  • A word about Nick Rimando and the U.S. goalkeeping situation:

Media and supporters will talk plenty about Donovan’s day, and rightly so. And we’ll surely chat about what some strong performances from Torres and (especially) Corona might mean, what a better afternoon of attacking from Michael Parkhurst means, etc. (Or, at the other end, what a slightly muted performance from Mix Diskerud means … at least before his late goal.)

But can we say a quick word about U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando? It will be overlooked because the score makes Sunday’s quarterfinal win look like a contest where you or I could have stood in goal. Not so.

(MORE: U.S. Man of the Match … Landon Donovan)

Rimando was outstanding the first half hour, catching crosses in traffic and handling tough balls that came in with some force. And what about that 25th minute double save! This match could have looked a lot different if not for that bit of really sharp stuff – because El Salvador would have remained motivated for a longer period with another goal somewhere in there.

In the bigger picture, it’s a case of “nothing new here” with the U.S. goalkeeping scene. Tim Howard and Brad Guzan as the first two U.S. ‘keepers are as solid  as any pair in the world. Rimando as the third … that’s just this side of unfair!

  • The team sometimes needs Kyle Beckerman

I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time defending the guy, so I’ll keep this one short.

Beckerman is hardly the be-all at international level, as I keep saying. But you need a couple of guys like that in a game like Sunday’s where a passionate underdog’s entire afternoon is about making life very, very difficult and then hoping to nick a result.

That was a tough match for about 60 minutes, and Beckerman was the ball winner and the fearless, calming presence needed. If Klinsmann puts 11 Jose Torres out there, they would win all the technical battles but lose all the tussles. And there were tussles aplenty.

Plus, Beckerman’s long-range passing deliveries were sharp as they come Sunday.

Yes, Beckerman remains well behind Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and others in the U.S. central midfield order. Yes, there are deficiencies in his game. But there is a place for the guy in a balanced player pool.

  1. bigdinla - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    Sometimes I think I watch a different game than you.

    Torres has moments of solid play, but his lack of pace and slow decision making constantly leave the attack stalled. He is good on set pieces though.

    Beckerman is what he is, a mediocre holding mid. Sadly he is the only one on this roster. He almost cost thenUS several times with missed tackles, but his passing was much better today.

    Wondoloski showed again that he is Taylor Twellman Jr. He finishes well, but does not have the ability to create chances.

    • s1ark5 - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:01 PM


      I couldnt agree more. Torres was not good today. To say that torres and corona had similar impact today is just wrong. Corona to me anyways looks much much better. Also wondo is a decent player but a usmnt player for a world cup team he is not. He can get his poaching goals all day long against concacaf crapppy teams but no way can he create on his own, not strong enough, not fast enough, not enough skill with the ball. He is a smart player, makes good runs but if we see alot of wondo in wc qualifying and in the world cup itself then something seriously has gone wrong with our forwards.

      Kyle becker man is well listen decent mls player, but again see wondo but a couple of levels below.

      Overalll great game to watch, we are building depth. Its exciting to see, maybe we can make some noise next summer.

      • tariencole - Jul 21, 2013 at 10:36 PM

        I think Torres had some good balls on switching the play and on his set piece delivery. He should’ve had at least 1 assist, in my mind. But the US’ abysmal finishing in the 1st half left a lot of impressive plays gong a begging.

        I think Beckerman and Wondo are both good people to have in the pool. They can do a job when you need depth. No, they’re not going to break into the top XI. But when you need to rest some players, or for situational play, they’re good to have in the pool.

    • larryang - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      Yeah, why didn’t Klinsmann take Dax McCarty?

  2. crayzeeguy - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    The next point should be that the Fox commentary booth staring Gus Johnson is an absolute train wreck and an insult to real fans.

  3. hildezero - Jul 21, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    I actually like Gus Johnson, I maybe a crazeeguy, but I like his energy that he showd when the team scores.

    • tariencole - Jul 21, 2013 at 10:34 PM

      I agree with you on this one. Gus Johnson is light years better than JP ever was already. I’d like Rob Stone to come down out of the booth and call games. But that’s not going to happen. I wish Gus would drop trying to insert basketball terms into soccer. But otherwise, he calls a fair match. Not Martin Tyler, or even Ian Darke. But solid.

      • charliej11 - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        Hildezero, that is because you can think for yourself and/or don’t have anything to prove ( unlike guys like crazeeguy ).

        Gus Johnson is ten times the announcer that Tyler and Darke are.
        Not even close.
        He could announce a chess match and I would watch because he is such a talented announcer.

        I would love, and did love when he did the College Cup, Rob Stone announcing.
        Completely different from Gus, but great still.

  4. godsholytrousers - Jul 21, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    I rate Beckerman as the best holding center mid on our roster not named Bradley.
    I include Jones in that comment. What makes Beckerman so valuable. One Word:

    • tariencole - Jul 21, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      Bradley isn’t a holding midfielder. He’s the linking midfielder. Though if he HAD to play holding, he could do it better than anyone else in the pool. That said, I’d prefer Cameron over both Jones and Beckerman because he has Beckerman’s discipline, better range than either Jones of KB, is solid in the tackle, and may not read the play as well as Beckerman, but actually bothers to read plays, which I sometimes wonder if Jones will ever do.

      I also think Bradley is more comfortable moving forward and linking with the attacking quartet when he has a stable player like Cameron behind him. Jones loses focus too often, and forces Bradley to play with an eye over his shoulder the whole time.

      • rafibomb10 - Jul 22, 2013 at 8:55 AM

        MBradley is the best holding midfielder, whether he plays there or not I agree. But the best linking midfielder is actually Stu Holden (When Healthy). A combo of those two, plus an attacking Mid in Dempsey or Donovan is a healthy combination, of defense, creativity, and possession.

  5. danielofthedale - Jul 21, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    Torres has his moments but on the whole he is not good enough to crake the 23 to Brazil. He leaves the left side way to much and has to spend at least 75% of his time in the middle third of the field giving no outlet out wide and making Beasley do to much running.

    I think Mix and Corona have helped themselves the most so far. Both have has moments where they have looked really good.

    I think Landon’s play will create a lineup Delilah with the A-team though. Does he go back into in the starting lineup and if so does he play the withdrawn striker like he has here which is Clint’s role or do you play him out wide over Johnson or Zusi where he is not as effective now as he once was to me.

    • midtec2005 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      The LD lineup issue is a good problem to have, and you are absolutely right… He clearly needs to be on the field.

    • mknow406a - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:41 AM

      LD goes to the left mid. Fabian Johnson goes back to his natural left back. I would loved to see those two linking up on the left (because let’s face it, FJ is a much better crosser of the ball than Beasley). Leave Zusi on the right… hopefully Cherundolo recovers, and now you have a very solid flank going both directions.

      For me, there was too much running room and free space in and around the top of the US 18… especially with “Captain Destructo” Kyle Beckerman out there. (You would have thought he was Marvel’s next generation super hero given that whole Defensive Mid article!) Rimando made some solid saves, but let’s face it, that was mostly a display of “lacking in finishing quality.” KB was pushing up, as was obvious by the number of strikes he took, but he does not have the speed nor the game recognition to recover when he does that. He can only be purely one dimensional… which is why when he plays to his ‘weaker’ dimension (aka – going forward) the guy between the pipes is going to see some quality chances. Too many gaps and not enough cover for the back four… especially against quality like Zelaya.

  6. supercoop8 - Jul 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Beckerman played some great balls behind the ES defense including the deft little flick to Donovan leading to Diskerud’s finish. He doesn’t handcuff the fullbacks by playing the ball right back to them under pressure and is one of the few US midfielders who looks forward instead of always safely back when possessing the ball. His lack of speed was compromising once or twice yesterday but his reads were however were decent. I wouldn’t put him on my 23 going into Brazil but to come out and call him mediocre after his performance yesterday seems petty. Goodsen scored but was terrible in their own end, Torres was forgettable, and the lack of El Salvador’s finishing touch bailed out the entire back line whom are reluctant to challenge and willing to concede space even inside the box. I just don’t understand how you can watch that game and your first reaction is that Beckerman is bad.

    • charliej11 - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:49 PM

      Beckerman was great yesterday. Guys on a soccer blog for the most part have no ability to stay unbiased, thus the continued Beckerman talk. I can see if you like others better, but to say he was bad last night ? give me a break….

      There were guys over at SBI that said Donovan was just ok yesterday.

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