For the last year and a half, Jozy has been a koala: he thrived because he had no competition. Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle are journeymen; Jozy losing his spot to one of them would be like Daniel Craig losing James Bond to Brian Dennehy. Robbie Findley is quickly becoming the answer to a trivia question, and that question is: “what was Bob Bradley smoking to make him think that Robbie Findley was one of the eleven best soccer players in the United States?”
Now, Juan Agudelo is emerging as a valid option at striker. Tonight, we’ll get to see Agudelo and Altidore play significant minutes in the same match; we’ll have a chance to compare and contrast. Hopefully, the competition will inspire both to step up their game.
Bradley’s lineup: Hahnemann | Bornstein, Ream, DeMerit, Chandler | Dempsey, Bradley, Edu, Donovan | Agudelo, Altidore. 4-4-2. This should be fun - we get another look at Agudelo and Chandler. Bradley is clearly using these matches more to warm up for the Gold Cup than to look at new faces. I approve.
1’ - U.S. wearing the red jerseys again - I like ‘em. I’m fine with us wearing red as long as we don’t wear it with white shorts. If we wear white with blue at home and red with white on the road, then we’re England. Without the self-pitying attitude.
11’ - Donovan sends Bornstein through, but Bornstein lashes the ball over the goal. The replay shows that the ball was bouncing a bit, but unfortunately also shows that Bornstein kind of sucks at crossing.
17’ - GOAL PARAGUAY! A corner takes a few deflections and falls to Oscar Cardozo, who smashes it home. When was the last time the U.S. scored first in a match? I honestly can’t remember.
18’ - I have to say: Hahnemann didn’t cover himself in glory on that play. He kind of got out of the way of the ball. I know it’s hard to make yourself take one in the face, but I always thought that was the implicit bargain with goalkeepers: you don’t have to run, but you sometimes take a ball to the face.
25’ - Chandler is fast. And good. And, in a reference I’m sure two of you will get, looks slightly like the aliens in the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 movie.
30’ - Bocanegra is warming up on the sidelines...is someone injured, or could Bradley just feel that Bornstein needs to come out? I have to say: if Bornstein gets subbed out of left back during the first half of a friendly, then that’s the most humiliating sub in the history of soccer. If Bradley does that, you might as well make Bornstein put on a sundress and run laps around the stadium.
40’ - U.S. has had a ton of free kicks, but can’t convert. Paraguay has converted one of their very few chances. That’s soccer.
41’ - Bocanegra comes in for DeMerit. Bad new is that DeMerit picked up some kind of knock. Good news is that Bornstein’s self-esteem lives to see another day.
44’ - Edu has been invisible.
HALF TIME. A lot of people have been pointing this out: as much as a 4-3-3 (or 4-5-1...whatever) seems to make sense for the U.S., they’ve tried it in the first half of their last three matches with poor results. Then, they’ve switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half and played better. The theory is that a 4-4-2 just suits the U.S. better. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the second half just suits the U.S. better.
Jermaine Jones in for Maurice Edu. Not a good night for Edu - hopefully Jones can do better. David Yelldell comes in for Marcus Hahnemann. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Yelldell has a German mother and an American serviceman father, and he was raised in Germany. That’s the only way you make the national team these days. Guys, if you want your son to play for the USMNT, then you know what you have to do.
46’ - Agudelo goes down in the box, but no foul! I don’t know...that looked like a foul to me. I’m almost positive Agudelo got clipped - the only question is whether the contact occurred inside the box.
50’ - Chandler is on fire. Today’s his 21st birthday; somebody buy him a beer after this match.
56’ - U.S. continues to be unable to play the ball out of the back. I can’t tell if Paraguay is doing and excellent job of pressuring or if we’re just too susceptible to their pressure.
60’ - Lichaj in for Jozy. This pushes Dempsey forward on the field, Chandler forward on the wing, and the Jozy haters forward on this comment board.
68’ - U.S. is in their “fight back and get something out of the match” phase of the game. This is the phase that always comes one hour after the “stand with hands on hips in apparent disbelief that we gave up yet another early goal” phase.
74’ - Donovan almost roofs one. That brought back good memories from the Slovenia match, except that it was on the wrong side of the post. You don’t get any points for that.
77’ - Paraguayan player rips one from 35 yards off the post. Wow. Take note, United Nations: Paraguay has the bomb.
80’ - Spector on for Chandler.
82’ - Kljestan and his creepy moustache take the field. Do you have to notify the neighbors if you move in while sporting that moustache?
84’ - Paraguay are living up to their reputation as masters of effective, boring soccer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I would love it if the U.S. bored our way into the round of eight.
85’ - Outstanding shot by Bradley, unbelievable save by the Paraguay keeper. That is an absolute top-drawer save.
90’ - As has been the case for as long as I can remember, the U.S. is having a lot of trouble breaking down a well-organized team.
90’ + 3 - Jones rips a shot but straight at the ‘keeper! And then the whistle blows (are you havin’ a laugh?)! Paraguay wins, 1-0.
Hahnemann: 4. Made a stop or two, but failed to make himself big on the goal.
Bornstein: 3.5. Played decent defense, but didn’t offer much going forward. It was like watching Santino Quaranta: he can get into good positions, and then can’t do anything once he gets there.
Ream: 5.5. He has my favorite trait in a soccer player: he’s good at soccer. He was great with the ball until he suddenly got the yips towards the end of the match.
DeMerit: 5.5. Played another solid game, including at least 10 minutes with a pulled groin.
Chandler: 7.5. Showed a lot of quality for the second game in a row. Buy.
Dempsey: 4. Not his night. He hustled way more than I would expect from someone who’s played as many matches as he has in the past year, but he also shanked several shots.
Edu: 3.5. It may have been Bradley’s plan to sub him in at half time all along, but Edu’s play certainly made it easy to follow through on that plan.
Bradley: 6.5. Another good performance, and would have had a goal if not for an outstanding save by the Paraguayan ‘keeper.
Donovan: 6. His hair is receding, his game is not. Not yet.
Agudelo: 6.5. Good touches, good movement. Not his best game, but he continues to look legit.
Altidore: 5. Wasn’t bad, and was actually pretty good on the ball. The most frustrating thing about Altidore is that the thing he’s worst at - timing and angling his runs - is something that can be learned. If he had half of Chicharito’s movement he’d have twice the goals.
Bocanegra: 5.5. Came in and was solid.
Jones: 5.5. Was better than Edu, but his distribution was still average at best. I’m a little disappointed that our midfield didn’t link up with our strikers a bit better.
Kljestan: 5.5. Had some good touches, did NOT have any of his trademark terrible giveaways. Still searching for a facial hair style that works.
Yelldell: 5. Didn’t have anything to do, but did it well, I guess.
Spector: N/R. Barely had any touches.