The Gold Cup, A Player by Player Review, Pt. 2

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The Defenders

The Gold Cup was a good chance for American fans to get a look at some fresh faces across the backline, led by two familiar ones – Steve Cherundolo and Heath Pearce.

(Note: Brad Evans will not be included in the defender reviews, nor in the midfielder reviews. He’s a natural midfielder, so I will refrain from judging based on his Gold Cup performances.)

(Note #2: Given Jimmy Conrad’s lack of time on the field, I’ll also refrain from a review of his play.)

Heath Pearce

Pearce has struggled with the national team since his utter debacle against El Salvador back in March. The Gold Cup was a chance for redemption and rejuvenation, a chance many think he botched.

Defense: Pearce didn’t have a particularly strong showing in the back at the Gold Cup, but he showed flashes of why some consider him the most talented left-back in the pool. His tackling is sound and his ability to read an attack is typically good. He falters, though, with his mental and tactical issues. He’s a bit of an “over-play” defender in that he makes hasty decisions rather than showing patience, often electing to take risks on tackles and challenges rather than playing sound positional defense. It’s this lack of patience that hinders his decision-making, where he often makes too many rash plays.

Offense: Pearce is a surprisingly gifted player with good passing range and ball-handling skills. While he too often boots the ball out of the back, rather than playing out with possession, he does possess the necessary skill to play in possession. His forays forward are usually productive, especially when paired with a quality left-sided midfielder, as he shows good awareness in his runs and overlaps. Pearce isn’t the best crosser in the world, but he usually puts in a good percentage of playable balls.

——-

Jay Heaps

Clearly not at the same level as his teammates, Heaps struggled to prove his doubters wrong. At the end of the day, it was easy to see why he was the longest-running American pro soccer player without a cap.

Defense: Heaps, to be kind, was a revolving door at the back. His inability to keep his feet and body centered on an attacker kept him from making any respectable stands at the back. He has a nasty habit of reacting to every little body fake, which was evident on the first goal conceded against Haiti. His positioning and awareness on the field are subpar for almost any level, as he relies heavily on his athleticism to cover his mistakes.

Offense: Heaps was marginally better going forward than he was at the back, but that’s not saying much. He has good  speed and quickness in attack, but his footskills and passing skills are well below his athletic talents. He wasn’t much of anything in attack to be honest.

——-

Steve Cherundolo

Cherundolo was rusty in his first 2 performances back from injury, and unfortunately he had to head back to preseason training in Germany before we could see more.

Defense: With his small size, it’s necessary for Cherundolo to be quick and decisive in his challenges. His lack of strength hinders his ability to make strong challenges that are ill-timed, something that often makes him look a bit more rusty than he probably is. For the most part, Cherundolo was his typical steady self at the back, making sound decisions and playing well out of danger. At this point, his size and strength is still a problem on the international stage.

Offense: Cherundolo, in my opinion, is a better wing than defender and it shows in his forays up the field. He makes smart runs and knows how to angle them in and out of a defender’s line. He passes well and, while he doesn’t have great on-ball skills, makes good use of his abilities to get to the byline and hit crosses. If the US ever really wanted a pure wing, I think Cherundolo is actually our best bet.

——-

Chad Marshall

Marshall has drawn some rave reviews from some writers and more tempered ratings from others. I lean toward the former with Marshall based on his play through the Gold Cup.

Defense: It’s abundantly clear that Marshall has been raised and trained to do one thing well – win aerial challenges. He moves well out of his defensive area for challenges, usually winning the ball over just about anyone. Where this becomes a problem is that Marshall often elects to pursue the aerial challenge at the expense of his backline. He shows little discipline in choosing his challenges, instead making it his mission to win every aerial play. He has to learn to be comfortable winning challenges through the ground before can consistently step up to the international level, as he’s to prone to attempting aerial challenges in hopes of not having to play a defender 1v1 on the ground.

Offense: Marshall is a good threat on set pieces, but I expected a bit more for someone with his prowess in the air. He gets pushed off his runs too easily on corners and was held down easily on some corners as well. His passing out of the back leaves a lot to be desired though, as he almost exclusively hits long balls for clearances. His biggest hindrance to his progress going forward is his technical ability on the ground.

——-

Clarence Goodson

In my opinion, Goodson was the most impressive of the centerbacks in the US squad. He’s not as athletic as Marshall, but showed a much better understanding of team defense and positioning.

Defense: Goodson displayed a good range of defensive skills, from aerial ability to ground challenges. He has a good sense of the field and his own positioning on it. He falters a bit when faced with shift players – Vela and Gio dos Santos come to mind – but otherwise was a stalwart defender at the back. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a first choice at the international level, but he’s certainly a quality backup to have.

Offense: Goodson is a good target in the box as he gets up well off of his runs, meeting the ball at his highest point in the air. Due to his good height, he’s tough to defend in the box. Unlike Marshall, he knows how to vary his runs and use his arms and body to propel himself into the air on set pieces. Goodson is better than Marshall at using his passing to get out of tight spots, but he’s still not overly proficient in that area. He’s prone to “kickball” just like the rest of this defensive unit.

——-

Michael Parkhurst

Somewhat a cult hero with the New England Revolution and MLS faithful, Parkhurst did little to prove that he belongs on the international stage.

Defense: Parkhurst is a player with below-average height and athleticism for a center-half, and as such relies on positioning and timing to make his mark on the game. He struggles against speed and quickness, and was repeatedly beat to balls by the strikers he faced. His size eliminates any ability to win aerial challenges and his speed hinders his chances at wining the over-the-top balls to quick players. All in all, it was a poor effort from a player that just doesn’t belong at this level.

Offense: Parkhurst struggles to provide any offense from the back, as he’s not used as a target for corners or set pieces. He is probably the most technically gifted of our center-halves, but it means little because he doesn’t often get in position to use those gifts.

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One Response

  1. Kind of sad when you analyze it and realize you would not really feel comfortable with any of these players starting a world cup game. I agree with you on Goodson he showed pretty good in the Gold Cup, although his lack of speed is worrying.

    Also he wasnt on the Gold Cup but Eric Lichaj has been playing in the Aston Villa team during their preseason games. He looks like a real prospect and should be called in for some friendlies.

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