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Bocanegra reaction to U.S. World Cup offers counterpoint to Donovan

Jul 3, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT

Italy v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

Not everything is about Landon Donovan, but the critique the United States Men’s National Team’s all-time leading scorer offered yesterday sent ripples through the team’s fan base. Though the Galaxy star, left out of Jurgen Klinsmann’s team for Brazil 2014, gave a considered, dispassionate view when he said the U.S. “were not set up to succeed,” many fans were left wondering if his honesty was too much, too soon in the wake of Tuesday’s loss.

But as another prominent U.S. star from South Africa 2010 reminds us, Donovan’s view is just one man’s opinion. Not every player who’s been left on the wrong side of Klinsmann’s selections was left disappointed. Carlos Bocanegra, for one, was complementary of not only the team’s performance but its approach.

Here’s the former U.S. Men’s National Team captain, as reported by Major League Soccer’s website:

“I would have taken that in a heartbeat,” Bocanegra said (of the U.S.’s World Cup outcome) …

“[The defense] did a good job,” the 35-year-old said. “They were very organized, very disciplined and had a great shape. We were playing against some very difficult teams: Belgium, Germany, Portugal and even Ghana, which has some very dynamic attacking players.

“We’re a smart team and nowadays in the World Cup …We’re going in the right direction.”

Rightfully, Bocanegra’s comments are already being juxtaposed against his former teammate’s, but the criticism of Donovan is going a little too far. Perhaps the timing of his observations was slightly ill-advised, he’s not exactly coming at this the same way as Eric Wynalda. There are others who share Dononvan’s views.

After all, consider Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments in the wake of Tuesday’s loss:

“I’m screaming my lungs off on the sidelines, [trying] to push them higher up the field. This is something they have to get out of their minds. Even against talented teams, [we have] to play them higher and higher up.”

Perhaps the problem is less tactics than on-field execution? To me, it was neither. Both the tactics and performances gave the U.S. a chance to steal results from Belgium and Germany. Donovan and Klinsmann may want more, but given the talent gap between the U.S. and that opposition, it’s unclear a different approach would have left the U.S. within striking distance.

Regardless, there are a number of ways to break down what happened on Tuesday, one of which is Bocanegra’s more positive view. Belgium? Germany? Portugal and Ghana? They’re all pretty good teams. There were no 2010 Algerias on this years docket.

Where Donovan may see a wasted opportunity, Bocanegra sees a great performance. And neither has to be wrong.

  1. tariencole - Jul 3, 2014 at 8:16 PM

    I didn’t consider Donovan’s comments ‘dispassionate.’ They came off quite bitter. But I thought the entire ESPN move to make him part of the commentary team was designed for ginned-up controversy in a studio that already has been heavily anti-Klinsmann.

    Yes, playing Belgium and Germany dictated a certain degree of increased caution. And the fact Landon doesn’t seem to get that hints at something of why he wasn’t in this World Cup side, when his 02 wingmate, DMB, was still playing. If Landon’s game had evolved to find ways to compensate for the loss of his once formidable pace, he would’ve still been a cinch for the 23. But it hasn’t, and he wasn’t. Beasley matured as a player, and used his football IQ to come to grips with who he was in the present tense. The result is, with Jones and Beckerman, perhaps the success story of the US team in this tournament.

    Also, I don’t buy that Cameron for Beckerman was a ‘negative’ choice. They were like for like. Cameron’s only played DMC for a Premiership team, after all. He was a better matchup against Fellaini. What cost the US going forward against Belgium was the loss of Fabian Johnson. It meant another substitution made by necessity instead of tactical adaptation. Yedlin was inspired. But he would’ve been even better, IMHO, if he could’ve played RM for Zusi w/ Johnson outside him in the 2nd half. I think that match would’ve been a lot more even.

  2. braxtonrob - Jul 3, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    I thought the defense performed very well, also. That being said, Bocanegra is one of the most overrated players in US history. (I’m not saying he wasn’t good! But OVERRATED.)

    • mvktr2 - Jul 4, 2014 at 1:41 AM

      Boca is dead on about the organization. The organization was wonderful!

  3. thegronk87 - Jul 3, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    US defense played well because they spent plenty of time in their own end – lots of opportunities to make good plays.

  4. yankeefootball - Jul 3, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    A quick defense to Carlos Bocanegra, he was THAT good. He played during a time where the USMNT midfield was at least a notch below where it is now. That left him to battle a lot on his own. His time in the Bundesliga should be all you need to know that he was a premier player. That being said, I value his opinion just as I value Landon’s opinion. Neither may be fully correct, but neither is truly way off base. Both are extraordinarily smart players who see the game in a far different and better light than the rest of us.

  5. odojoe - Jul 3, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    I thought there was no defense against Belgium save Tim Howard.

  6. rmccleary97 - Jul 4, 2014 at 1:30 AM

    “given the talent gap between the U.S. and that opposition, it’s unclear a different approach would have left the U.S. within striking distance.”

    This. God love the USA, but anyone watching the games should have noticed in the last two that there’s a real difference in talent between the U.S. and Germany or Belgium – namely, those countries have it and we don’t (yet). People arguing “we had a chance” are pinning it on “well, maybe if we do ___ and ______ and _______, *maybe* we get lucky and scratch out a goal and win,” ignoring that by the same token, we could have been waxed 3-0, 4-0, or worse.

  7. dkalev - Jul 4, 2014 at 4:53 AM

    Well, er… The uniforms were nice!

    • thegronk87 - Jul 4, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      the away jerseys were the most awful jerseys in US history – all Nike’s fault.

    • malaguy - Jul 7, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      I liked the darker ones. Too bad we only got them once.

  8. mfmaxpower - Jul 4, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Donovan has always been a controversial player because his personality, well, sucks. This is just another example, plain and simple.

    • malaguy - Jul 7, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      Yeah, most if not all of his public comments since being cut points toward the biggest case of sour grapes ever.

  9. Sgc - Jul 4, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Perhaps it’s not terribly surprising that we’re more likely to be called out for a purely defensive style by forwards than by defenders.

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