(Saturday, November 14, 2009) -- The United States men dropped a rather lackluster 1-0 decision to host Slovakia before a rather sparse crowd at Tehelne Pole Stadium in Batislava.
U.S. Player Ratings
The U.S. defended well throughout, giving up few quality chances, but with key players missing, the Americans generated little attack, able to manage only three shots on goal all afternoon with none coming in the second half. The U.S. simply never looked dangerous on the attack.
For this friendly, scheduled to take advantage of an international match date, U.S. coach Bob Bradley was without the center of his defense with Oguchi Onyewu in California rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee and Jay DeMerit in England recovering from eye surgery. His main offensive threat, midfielder Landon Donovan is in Los Angeles with the Galaxy with a Major League Soccer conference final this weekend.
Emerging striker Charlie Davies is recovering from a nearly fatal auto accident, while normal starting goalkeeper Tim Howard was in England nursing a sore foot.
One thing abundantly clear today was how much this team depends on Donovan. When he is on his game, he is the most dangerous offensive threat the U.S. Without him, the Americans search for ways to try to score. Today, they could find none.
The good news for Bradley today was how well his patched-together back-line played. With normal right defender Steve Cherundolo joining Carlos Bocanegra in the middle, the U.S. gave up very little and when it did falter in back, keeper Brad Guzan was up the task.
Slovakia, is both solid and experienced and it easily qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, winning European Group 3 with a 7-2-1 record. Today, head coach Vladimir Weiss used a lineup composed mainly of his starters with a few reserves thrown in. His team is a mixture of veterans and up-and-coming players, such as the coach's son Vladimir Weiss, Jr., a forward for Manchester City in England. Midfielder Marek Hamšík who plays for Napoli in Italy and Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel were also on hand.
So overall, there were some positive notes for the U.S., but the lack of attack has to be a worry. More than that, no one is emerging as a reliable threat on the front line and this is something that must be corrected by next summer or else it will be a short American stay in South Africa.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 7: Came up big when he needed to making several standout stops. Controlled his area well. Looks like he will be up the task if called upon.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6: A polished professional performance in which he was rarely out of position defensively while also managing to push forward on occasion.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6.5: Might play on the left side for his club in France, but showed he is still solid and dependable in the middle. Covered side to side well and gave up nothing on balls played down the middle.
Defender Jonathan Spector - 6: Had a solid match, providing good cover for his teammates.
Defender Jonathan Bornstein - 3.5: Once again looked good pushing forward and getting into the attack, but once again defended poorly. Glaring error in giving up the penalty kick that resulted in Croatia's goal.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber - 5.5: Worked well with Bradley and showed quality in defense. He could have done more offensively, but was constantly shadowed by multiple players when he tried to push forward.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6: Worked hard in the midfield, mostly in a defensive effort. In the crowded middle, he was not able to push forward very often, but provided defensive cover in a very solid performance.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 6.5: Provided much of what passed for the U.S. offense, but was limited to chances from long range. Was a threat at times and was strong in the midfield.
Midfielder Robbie Rogers - 5: Was not able to create very much in the crowded midfield. Had his moments, but they tended to be few and far between.
Forward Conor Casey - 4.5: Got very little service but also did not do much to create chances for himself. Was overmatched by some quality defenders.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5: Likewise while playing more physically, was contained by quality defending. Had a few small openings, but did not take advantage of them.
Forward Eddie Johnson (46th minute for Casey) - 4: Simply looked overmatched and was easily handled by quality defenders..
Midfielder Dax McCarty (73rd minute for Dempsey) - 6: Put into a defensive midfield role and actually played well, making several quality defensive plays and handling himself well.
Defender Clarence Goodson (73rd minute for Bocanegra) - 5: Had a few rough moments until he settled in. Then he did fine, but was not put under much pressure.
Midfielder Sasha Kljestan (81st minute for Rogers) - 4.5: A short appearance. While making several good crosses, he also gave the ball up easily too often.
Forward Jeff Cunningham (81st minute for Altidore) - 4: Never really became acclimated and made no impression on the match.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Brad Guzan