Notes from the Netherlands-United States friendly in Amsterdam

Once again, we see that the United States team under Bob Bradley is better when it’s pressed, when put into action against quality competition.

Was the United States great Wednesday at the Amsterdam? No. Did the Bradley Bunch do OK against a very good Dutch side? More or less, yes. Jonathan Bornstein obviously had a couple of brain farts. Michael Bradley struggled with his passing and Robbie Findley once again failed to exploit what was surely his last chance to claim a starting assignment in South Africa.  But otherwise, the Americans held up adequately.  Don't knock “Adequate” in this case. "Adequate" is acceptable on the road against such a class foe.

I know the product Wednesday in those new Nike blues wasn’t great, and I know the Dutch had better chances over 80 minutes. Still, a 2-1 loss to a side so stacked with midfield options that it can bring Real Madrid’s Rafael van der Vaart off the bench is hardly an awful night.

Click through for five thoughts on the match that will surely have you nodding your head in agreement:

1. The United States doesn’t have a John Heitinga at the moment. The Dutch center back is what every good defense needs, a reliable communicator, someone to settle the back, make all the simple plays and move possession cleanly into the midfield. Nor does the U.S. generally have defenders as comfortable with the ball as the Dutch men of the rear guard. We knew that already, but the contrast was telling as U.S. defenders created some nervous moments with balls from the back that were something less than perfect. FYI: last possession for theUnited States before about 1 minute and 14 seconds of almost total Dutch possession leading to the second goal: Bornstein’s big pass out of the back that went nowhere.

2. The United States doesn’t have a Wesley Sneijder at the moment. OK, this one clearly falls into the “You don’t freakin’ say!” category. The Dutch playmaker was a midfield tour du force, absolutely ruling the middle of the Amsterdam ArenA park. He worked well with Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel in Holland’s 4-3-3, but he was even more effective in spurts upon van der Vaart’s second-half introduction.  Jose Torres looks like the closest thing Bradley’s team will have to a creator. And, suffice to say, Torres is no Sneijder.

 3. Mistakes in the back will be punished with ruthless prejudice in the World Cup. For Bornstein, who gave up the first-half penalty kick and probably should have been whistled for another, such sloppiness in the final third could prove particularly damaging to his cause. (Especially with

Heath Pearce coming off a nice match against El Salvador, and then producing a couple more nice moments in mop up time Wednesday.) Heck, even the Dutch learned a lesson about the jeopardy of defensive inattention. No one on the ESPN broadcast mentioned it, but what a piece of shoddy defending by the Dutch on the late U.S. goal!  No one ever bothered to mark Carlos Bocanegra, who floated in completely unchallenged as the Netherlands switched off. Credit to Bocanegra for exploiting the blunder.

4. We did see about 15 minutes of what so many U.S. fans believe the team needs to do: address the flagging depth at striker by utilizing Landon Donovan as a second forward underneath a target man. As Alejandro Bedoya checked in just past the 60-minute mark, DaMarcus Beasley went from the right to the left, Bedoya manned the right and Donovan slid into the slot beneath striker Jozy Altidore. (Not that you’d know any of this listening to ESPN analyst John Harkes, who never mentioned the tactical adjustment.) How’d it work out? No real effect. Bradley wasn’t having a good day passing and Maurice Edu doesn’t look ready to step up to this level. So Donovan really didn’t have much in the way of support behind him. 

5. Stuart Holden was having a fairly productive match before de Jong’s reckless work. The U.S. staff sent Holden for precautionary x-rays. Let’s hope for the best, especially as Holden has just gained a toehold on a starting spot forBolton. I’d say that if Holden is healthy and in form, we won’t have to worry as much about seeing Beasley out there. Otherwise, it would be a stretch to say that we had any real revelations from the match. Bornstein’s bad night will probably have some carry-over. As mentioned, Bradley’s passing was off and Edu isn’t back into form after his injury struggles. Pearce made the most of limited minutes. Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit did OK in the middle. Tim Howard was solid as ever.  Jonathan Spector was occasionally pushed beyond his comfort zone on the right. Findley couldn’t find a way through; again, that’s no revelation. Jozy Altidore wasn’t outstanding, but he did have his moments. That’s about what you’d expect of such a young talent.

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