Improved performance still translates into a loss for Americans.
By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, March 30, 2011) -- The United States men fell 1-0 to defense-minded Paraguay last tonight before a record crowd of 29,059 on a cool, rainy night at Nashville's LP Field.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the game was that Paraguay is not Argentina. Coming just three days after the Americans' 1-1 draw with Argentina, all sorts of comparisons were being made between the U.S. performances in the two matches. Unlike Saturday, when Argentina dominated the actions, last night it appeared the U.S. was in control in terms of time of possession, and in its ability to hold and move the ball in the midfield.
This was much because Paraguay was content to stay organized at the back and to give the Americans plenty of room in midfield. Despite a huge advantage in time of possession, the Americans did not really generate many quality chances.
"Overall, I think the team had some good periods in terms of moving the ball and having ideas, but we gave up a bad goal on a set piece, both in terms of responsibility and dealing with the play," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "Paraguay is a strong team defensively and they close down fast, but we hurt ourselves because when we got into good positions, we didn't come away with many good chances. Part of it is a credit to Paraguay's defending, but those would be the areas that let us down and we ended up with a tough 1-0 loss."
Paraguay's goal came in the 18th minute when Oscar Cardozo shook off defender Tim Ream, sending him to the ground, and reached a corner kick that was allowed to bounce in the penalty area. He blasted a shot point-blank past goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
The visitors' only other quality chance came late when Marcelo Estigarribia curved a 25-yard rocket past second-half keeper David Yelldell, only to see it glance off a goal-post.
The U.S. had three quality chances in the second half. Midfielder Landon Donovan drove a shot off the side netting from a sharp angle. Three minutes from the end, midfielder Michael Bradley ripped a 30-yard shot that was tipped over the crossbar by keeper Justo Villar, who fully stretched. On the final play of the match, Villar stopped midfielder Jermaine Jones from 17-yards.
In the final analysis, the Americans did more against Paraguay than it was able to do against Argentina, but it was activity that was not very effective and easily handled by the highly organized and experienced opposing defense.
Next up for the U.S. will be a contest June 4 with Spain in Foxborough, Mass., three days before the Gold Cup kicks off.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann - 5.5: Not at fault for the goal, he was rarely put under pressure. When called upon, he controlled his area well. His long experience showed.
Defender Jonathan Bornstein - 4.5: While he made no glaring errors, he really did not have a good night. He certainly tried hard, but was not very effective in moving forward. His crossing, when he did come forward, was not sharp and on defense lost a couple of aerial duels. He needed to do better.
Defender Jay DeMerit - 5: Was a step slow most of the first half, but possibly was the result of a sore groin that took him off before the interval.
Defender Tim Ream - 6: Earning his first cap, the young defender did well, although he was only occasionally put under pressure. He seems to see the game well and he clearly has good instincts. He passed well from the back, but has to take better charge physically as he was shunted aside on the Paraguay goal.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 7: In his first start on his 21st birthday, he did everything that was asked of him and a lot more. He defended well and attacked well up the wing. He even made long throw-ins into the box. In the last half hour, he moved into the midfield and showed well in the attack. He definitely seems destined to become a mainstay on this team.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 4.5: His job was to push the opposing attack out of the middle and he was simply not very effective in that role. He's been playing a lot of soccer in Scotland, given league and Cup matches and, seemed leg weary when replaced at halftime.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 4.5: For the second match in a row, he just wasn't sharp. Whether attacking, taking corner kicks and free kicks, or linking up with teammates, he just had an off night.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 5.5: As was often the case, he was the main American offensive weapon. He attacked constantly and found himself on the ground time after time from the physical defense he faced. He has to do better finishing as he misfired on a couple of golden chances.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6: A much better showing than on Saturday, especially in the first half when he was a key to disrupting the Paraguay attack in the midfield. Made some very good passes. Seemed to tire a bit in the second half. but had the best U.S. chance of the night, denied only by an amazing save.
Forward Juan Agudelo - 6: The young forward continues to do well, given his lack of experience. Caused some problems for the Paraguay defense by going wide. Was not afraid to take on defenders and almost earned a penalty when he was taken down in the box. A good first starting assignment.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 4.5: He's still not getting the job done. Admittedly, he did not get much service, but neither did Agudelo who showed much better. He needs to hold the ball better and create opportunities he is not creating now.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra (42nd minute for DeMerit) - 6: He came on into the middle where he has not been playing for several seasons with French clubs and quickly settled in. Made a couple of good clearances in the second half in a solid veteran performance.
Goalkeeper David Yelldell (46th minute for Hahnemann) - 5.5: In his first national team appearance, the experienced European goalkeeper generally did fine, although not pressured. Was beaten once on a world-class strike that fortunately hit the post.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones (46th minute for Edu) - 6: Another solid physical performance. He covered quite a bit of ground and was a constant disruptive force for the U.S.
Defender Eric Lichaj (60th minute for Altidore) - 5.5: In his first U.S. appearance, he was not pressured defensively so he was able to get forward. Displayed good pace and an attacking instinct.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (76th minute for Spector) - 5: When he came in, the Americans went to a three-man backline and tried to push the offense. He contributed some in the effort, but not enough.
Midfielder Jonathan Spector (80th minute for Bornstein) - 5. Came on as a midfielder rather than as a defender for the final minutes and did not make much of an impression.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Timmy Chandler.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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