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ASN Weekly Debate

What Did We Learn from the Friendly Against Russia?

The United States national team went to Russia and scrapped out a 2-2 draw. ASN's Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon discuss what, if anything, we can take away from the final game of 2012.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
November 16, 2012
7:54 AM
Noah Davis: Okay Ry Ry, what did we learn from the US-Russia game?

Ryan O'Hanlon: More than anything, we learned that people still really get a kick out of overreacting—the new thing is being upset about a 2-2 tie against one of the best teams in Europe—about USMNT results. Yet, it wasn't meaningless, and man, Where have you gone, Eddie Pope? That defense, well, "defense" probably isn't even the right word to use there.

Davis: At the risk of outing you, you emailed me in the middle of the game and said something along the lines of "They aren't playing that badly." It's weird; those first 15 minutes were shockingly terrible, but I agree with your sentiment. I thought the U.S. more or less held their own afterward, and actually outplayed Russia for significant parts of the game.

That said, maybe you and I are being too lenient about the terrible start? Even the players said they were lucky not to be down two or three to nothing after 20 minutes. Also, I learned it's really dumb to go to Russia in the winter, even southern Russia, and not bring a winter hat.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, I mean, it was a soccer game. Each team had extended periods of possession, and it all swayed back and forth. There's all this talk about how it could've been 7-2 or whatever, and well, both of Russia's goals were off bogus mistakes. (If that's how the U.S. scored their two goals, people would be freaking out about how terrible the attack us.) Plus, the US should've—stupid word—scored at least two more, so this all just stupid, I guess, is my point. And the start is maybe concerning, but isn't that also what you'd expect from a team of guys travelling to Russia from all over the world, barely training together, and then playing a game that actually doesn't mean anything outside of a how-well-I-do-could-make-a-difference sense. The real concern, if there is any, is that the defense was generously terrible. They should've let you go out there so you could 1) warm up your head and 2) shore things up.

Davis: Well, you're just a bundle of joy. One of the issues I think, and Tim Howard talked about this a little, is that they don't have a vocal leader yet. It doesn't come naturally to any of the three current centerbacks. That was Jay DeMerit's job. The question is will anyone step up? Or, will DeMerit come back?

O'Hanlon: Yeah, that's a pretty good point, and I'm willing to take Howard at his word since he's, you know, on the team and on the field and all that. One way to ease that difficulty, maybe, is to actually develop some kind of partnership. Right now it's Cameron, who I'm not so sure should be an automatic pick, and then someone else. I'd like to see Edu and Cameron back there because they played well together that one time. And I think that also gets at why Jay Demerit hasn't and won't be called up, in addition to his age. Based on the way Klinsmann wants to play—ball on the ground, pass and move—Demerit just isn't suited for it. Edu, a center midfielder his whole career, is. And him and Cameron did well against Mexico in basically the most-difficult of circumstances.

Davis: So, your ideal centerback pairing is a guy who plays right back with his club and a guy who doesn't play for his club, but when he does, he plays central midfield? I'm not saying that's wrong; I just think it should be mentioned. Ladies and gentlemen, your United States men's national team!

O'Hanlon: Well, I mean, Italy used/uses De Rossi as a centerback—and I'm really digging myself into a hole here already—and Javi Martinez—still digging—shuttles between centerback and center mid. I don't think it has to be a direct transfer from the club team. We're still the U.S. and we don't have the talent yet to not be creative with this stuff, and who knows. Maybe Stoke would follow suit? Obviously not, because it's Stoke, but still.

Davis: Blame the English for everything. I like. Let's talk about something else, namely that Michael Bradley is absurd. Last year, it looked like Clint Dempsey was playing a different game than the rest of his USMNT teammates. After watching the last few matches, I think that claim now belongs to Bradley. He never looked even a little bit overwhelmed against Russia unlike, um...

O'Hanlon: Danny Williams? But I think that's more being overwhelmed by having to play with Jermaine Jones, which is a nightmare I just had, than him not being up to the standard. But Bradley is just on another level now—and as we've talked about before—it's harder to appreciate how good he really is when he's not playing with a team of guys at or near his level. That said, Dempsey is still there, too. And the U.S. still needs him, but they looked relatively competent going forward, didn't they?

Davis: I guess? I didn't think either team created too many chances, though. But yeah, in the grand scheme of "What are we concerned about?" the answer, in order, is: 1) Everything, always. 2) The backline. 3) The attack. 4) My cold ears. Let's wrap this up, because I sense the people are growing tired of us yapping. Give me your "everyone is healthy Starting XI" for right now.

O'Hanlon: Did you at least get one of those hats the team was wearing in training? And more importantly did you get me one?

Davis: No, but how great are those hats, right? I asked. For myself, not for you.

O'Hanlon: Really great hats, unlike the really terrible friend, which you are. But anyway, my lineup: Howard in goal. Cherundolo, Edu, Cameron, and Johnson as the backline. Bradley and Williams holding. Attacking three of Donovan on the right, Dempsey in the middle, and Zusi (the toughest spot to pick) on the left. Then, Altidore up top (although if Agudelo keeps it up, and since he's 19 I have no idea, he's in this conversation). You?

Davis: Man, this is way harder than I thought it would be. I don't know. Howard; Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Cameron, Johnson; Zusi, Bradley, Williams, Donovan; Dempsey; Altidore. Maybe? I loved what Gomez did tracking back Wednesday night. He's tough to leave off. I guess, and this isn't a revelatory observation, the lineup depends on the opponent. In a match where the other team is "better," I like Gomez for the work he puts in getting back. But in the Hex, I'll take the one above. And Jay DeMerit on the sideline with a bullhorn.

O'Hanlon: I think we could talk Klinsmann into that much.

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