053013_usbelgium_isi_usmntro052913-0361 Rick Osentoski/isiphotos.com
ASN Weekly Debate

What Can We Take Away from the U.S. vs. Belgium?

Our dynamic duo watched the American national team fall to its European rivals and, believe it or not, they have some thoughts. If you can't beat 'em, read 'em? Or something along those lines.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
May 31, 2013
1:00 PM
Noah Davis: O'Hanlonlonlon, give me your No. 1 useful takeaway from Wednesday night's beatdown in Cleveland. And you have to give me something. You can't say "oh, it wast just a friendly and it doesn't mean anything and I don't have opinions" even if that's true.

Ryan O'Hanlon: I'm beginning not to like these conversations where you make me "say things" but OK. Can I say: Belgium looks really good?

Davis: Yeah, that's fair. It was totally fun watching Belgium play, wasn't it? And, I must say, that was an artful way to dodge the intention of my poorly-phrased question.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, they're really great—and they were missing a lot of players. (I am excited for the World Cup!) Thank you, but since we're already trying to read each other's minds, I'll answer what you meant to ask: my takeaway is that the US does not appear to be a very deep soccer team, which is unsurprising but nonetheless true.

Davis: There is some depth in places: goalkeeper (always), central (defensive) midfield, right back (apparently, although please put Geoff Cameron in the middle where he belongs, please). But yes, I agree with you generally. I started to notice that when, shameless plug, I started to fill out the ASN 100. After the first 10 or 15 names, it's all just sort of a mish-mash of mediocrity.

O'Hanlon: It was just a blah game, and it's ultimately meaningless like we talked about, but it is such a big drop-off from the the best players to the level below, isn't it? I hate to bring his name up, but this team very much still needs Landon Donovan if it is going to be the best team it can be.

Davis: I don't think the team is missing Landon Donovan because no one, not even Landon Donovan if his recent comments are to be believed, thinks he's the LD of old, at least not yet. What it misses is The Idea of Landon Donovan, which is to say, basically, creativity. I wrote this in the piece I did for Grantland, too, but the biggest difference to me between the two teams was how the Belgian players immediately knew what they wanted to do with the ball whereas the U.S. team, um, didn't. I'm not a big "scream at the TV" type of dude, but there were a few times last night where I did because the Americans would gain possession and just sort of stand around.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, there was one long ball Jermaine Jones hit—it was a nice ball, shaped-well, etc.—but after he hit it he kind of just stood there and stared. He actually played well—and has been better recently, on the whole—so I hate to use him, but it's just a specific example of what you're talking about. Possession is great and all, but doing it with a purpose is even better! I've never been confident in this team's ability to score, and that hasn't changed.

Davis: Well anytime I hit a nice well-shaped ball I just stand there and stare, too. But maybe that's not what you want out of—cringe—one of your best players. Then again, the U.S. did score two goals against one of the best teams in the world, a squad that has given up one goal in six qualifying matches in one of the toughest groups in the world. That's something, right? If we're going to skewer the Americans when they flub 100 chances against [Insert non-Mexico CONCACAF team of choice here], then we should give them credit for scoring, too, even if one of those goals came from an absurd handball call. I very much doubt many of the pundits predicted two goals for the U.S., regardless of Belgium's total.

O'Hanlon: I doubt it, too, but I guess I'm just saying that this game didn't ease any of the doubts I had, even though they managed to score twice, which, is a really roundabout way of just saying that this is a friendly and oh well.

Davis: Can we talk for a minute about the greatest thing Jurgen Klinsmann has ever said? ""I’d rather play Belgium 10 more times than El Salvador for 100th time." I don't actually have a statement; I just like that so much.

O'Hanlon: It is great, and I love it. What I don't love: the idea that the U.S. playing and beating Uzbekistan is somehow a good thing for the program because it "builds confidence."

Davis: It's better than losing to Uzbekistan. Or Usbekistan, wherever that is. I see very little benefit to playing friendlies against bad Central American/South American teams. And a lot to playing against better European ones. I guess you could make a "style" argument, but that seems ridiculous.

O'Hanlon: I think it's more just: don't play bad teams, isn't it? The US plays in very tough conditions in qualifying, but they're not playing against good teams, necessarily. So, the more they can do that, the better. And they definitely have, recently.

Davis: I would still like to see them play Madeupstanistan, but yes, sure. Speaking of that: Germany. Thoughts? Hopes? Dreams? What's that? You'd like mine? Okay: bam. I can't wait for this game to be over. I don't care. It's boring. The U.S. is going to lose. And then they are going to play some real games. I would like to see more of the Omar Gonzalez-Matt Besler pairing, and also Cameron in the middle. Hell, play three center backs. Make it fun. Then go to Jamaica, which I have an incredible amount of trouble spelling.

O'Hanlon: I agree. I'm excited to see Germany play, but beyond that: ugh. Beyond hoping no one gets hurt, I really don't care. Maybe play your hopeful starting lineup for Jamaica for a half, and then change it up. It's good experience for everyone, but nothing beyond that.

Davis: I feel bad, a bit, because it's Germany and that's fun and all, but qualifiers are so dramatically superior to friendlies, obviously. And, while I like the increased competition, I don't love it right before three big games. But I don't know when else would be a good time to do it. Being a national team coach is impossible.

O'Hanlon: It really is one of the worst multi-million-dollar jobs I can think of. But it's still a multi-million-dollar job. And you can a pretty cool sweater—but, still, apparently nothing more than a 12-year-old's haircut.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. Sometimes, one of them has multiple "meetings" at his "job" and the conversation takes forever.

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