America squared off against Poland last night at Soldier Field. America came out blazing and Jozy Altidore finally found his touch in an international game and scored in the 12th minute. Altidore continues to have many opportunities to score up front but only put in that early goal to put America ahead 1-0. But after the initial 20 minute onslaught by America early in the game, Poland had much better possession.
The Polish team works much harder on offense and in the midfield, despite America having more real opportunities. Maurice Edu anchored the American defense that looked strong overall but had two defensive lapses that led to goals by Poland. Tim Howard was up to the task and saved many good opportunities but he is expected to do that. The two goals America conceded was unsaveable. In both instances Stuart Holden came back to defend and was not up to par. Despite having a strong game offensively and in the midfield there, Stuart shanked a swing by Poland that led to a 50/50 ball inside America's 18. No one else went up for it but Onyewu, and he did not get a clean head on it. It rolled down his body and right to a Polish player who tucked the ball away. Poland was playing in a formation that allowed them to collapse in the middle and favor their right side.
Most of the play involved Poland's right side of the field with ample support from the center midfielders. America played more spread out but this caused problems for America's defense. Bob Bradley tried a lot of tactical changes with the team but not the one that was necessary. He needed to pack the middle of the field like Poland to stop the short passes and offensive buildup. In order to keep players on the flank like America did those in the middle have to work harder and those on the outside have to be more productive. The outside midfielders need to have more dangerous crosses on offense and take lots of field when it is open. Instead, America would switch fields and then try and build up the middle again. Dempsey had a strong game but was not always visible. He looked out of place as a withdrawn striker to Jozy. It would have been advantageous to America if Dempsey played a more central role and Bradley could have brought on a second striker to compliment Jozy.
The team also lacked a real play maker. Mike Bradley continued to show his composure and ability to anchor the team. He came back into the defensive third to build up the offense but he had no one in the offensive third to be his counterpart and build up threats. Landon Donovan was surely missed. And America continues to show that it needs an additional playmaker and finisher.
The best news for America is that Jermaine Jones proved to be a very strong stopper in his first game and will assist immensely in the defense in future games. He was able to win many balls in the air, beat strikers to the ball and contain very well. He was impressive in his first start for the national team and hopefully this is a sign of things to come from him.