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Dissecting England's goal vs. USA in World Cup

Let's take a closer look at the sequence that led to Steven Gerrard's fourth-minute goal against the United States on Saturday night.

It began with a simple throw-in by right back Glen Johnson to Frank Lampard. Michael Bradley challenged, but Lampard was able to target Wayne Rooney. When Oguchi Onyewu decided to step up and confront Rooney, a channel opened behind him. (I don't blame Onyewu; Rooney cannot be given space 25-30 yards from goal.)

Lampard's pass was a bit too strong for Rooney, who tried to stab it. As the ball skimmed past Rooney and toward Emile Heskey, Ricardo Clark got caught watching, which allowed Gerrard to make a diagonal run behind the U.S. midfielder into space. Jay DeMerit was late challenging Heskey, who one-timed the ball into Gerard's path for the 14-yard shot past Tim Howard.

For U.S. Coach Bob Bradley's take.....

"Off a throw-in, what does our organization look like and the part that comes next?" Bradley said Sunday. "You have to have the ability to play collectively as a defense but that also involves keeping track of players. If you are so worried about every player every time and your are pushing early to a guy, that means there will be gaps.

"When the ball came into Lampard, Michael stepped up to close him down. Rooney came into the hole, and now Gooch has to make a decision as far as high tight he is going to go.

"The initial pass from Lampard, Michael put enough pressure there that [it] was intended to Rooney but it skipped by him and went to Heskey. And so in that moment, with Gooch out of there and that space between Jay and Carlos [Bocanegra], now Ricardo is caught in a tough spot because he has to try to recover and track Gerrard. All it takes in these kinds of games is a couple seconds where the reactions aren't as good as they need to be, and you've left a hole -- and you pay."

Bradley also spoke in broader terms about the U.S. defensive effort, which compensated for disorganization by making courageous individual plays.

"Defensively, in these types of games, there's two sides. There's the side of organization and doing things with a good understanding, and that gets put to the test because the game moves at a fast speed.

"You can look very good sometimes in terms of how coordinated you are, but when the game goes faster and when there are players on the other team capable of making more out of really a slight advantage, that puts you to the test. There were some moments when the pure coordination of the team wasn't as good as we still think it can be. What comes next is pure commitment to make a play.

"On that end, all around the field, the efforts of the team were excellent. Guys were committed to doing that little extra bit to chase a little harder, go to the ground, come away with a tackle."

By Steve Goff  |  June 13, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , England , U.S. men's national team  | Tags: Bob Bradley, England-USA, Steven Gerrard, World Cup  
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Next: An update on USA goalkeeper Tim Howard


It's hard to blame Clark for not knowing what Gerrard would do before Gerrard knew what he would do. Chalk up the goal to England coming out half a step quicker than USA. USA should be proud of the rest of the match -- and send Greene a case of champagne.

Posted by: runningcloud | June 13, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Actually, it's very easy to blame Clark. He's not solely to blame (like Green mostly is for the other goal). But if Clark isn't ball watching, if he runs with Gerrard than that is not a goal--it's really that simple.

I know that many folks were insisting that Clark was much better after the first 10 minutes of the match and I was a big Ricardo Clark fan in MLS. But I'm less an impressed of his body of NT work. Good range, big heart, good effort. But not particularly good with the ball (unless you like square balls or backpasses to the keeper. And specific to this particular play, he just wasn't thinking--he reacted late. Good team defense involves staying with runners. Anyone who's watched at least 15 minutes of Liverpool knows that Gerrard likes to run forward and take a chance at goal--that's a huge chunk of his game--he's not starting b/c he's a great D-mid or ball-winner (though he surprised me with his efforts in that regard this match--not as bad as I'd have expected).

Posted by: JoeW1 | June 13, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"But if Clark isn't ball watching, if he runs with Gerrard than that is not a goal--it's really that simple."

Nothing is ever "that simple," but know-it-alls like you wish to pretend it's so.

Posted by: very_clever_username | June 13, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Agreed JoeW1 - Ricardo Clark was a great performer in MLS and I'll bet he'll get better in both league and international play. But this is the World Cup and at this point he really is not the caliber of player to be starting...particularly against a power like England.

I much rather would have liked to see Edu in there to start, followed by Torres when a creative spark was needed in the second half. Unfortunately, because Bradley is apparently already making excuses for Clark, we'll probably see him start on Friday.

Posted by: combedge | June 13, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Judging by Bradley's comments, it seems that Clark has the lion's share of blame for losing his mark.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 13, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The argument for playing Clark is that he's more defensively solid, and that suited the US gameplan for England. But he got caught napping at the beginning of the England game.

I hope we see Edu (or maybe Torres) in Clark's place, now that we have to generate some offense in the next 2 games. I'd also like to see Buddle start for Findley, who was ineffective.

Posted by: hungrypug | June 13, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I thought it was Clark's fault pretty much immediately, and replays only strengthened my opinions.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | June 13, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

can someone clarify for me this phrase I keep hearing in the broadcasts: "danger man"

Is that right? I've never heard that used before but when I was re-watching DCU-Seattle, the announcers used it as well. Has this phrase been used all along?

Posted by: DCB23 | June 13, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Danger Man is a superhero who wears a yellow and black diagonal striped suit and carries weapons such as the orange cone blaster and the yellow tape lariat.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 13, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

In case you want to see it again:

It was Clark's fault.

Posted by: dccal | June 13, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

As soon as England scored I said who lost their man. Clark is at fault. You can't allow a midfielder to run free like that so close to your own goal. With Gooch and Demerit paying particular attention to Rooney it becomes even more important for everyone else to stay with their marks. It was disappointing considering Clark was in the lineup more for his defense than anything else. He did make a very nice defensive clearance later in the game but I'm hoping we see Edu/Torres also in the next two games. As for Findley, I thought he played fairly well. While he didn't do much with it, his speed caused problems for England's back line and he did well to track back on defense.

Anyone else wondering what took so long to use our subs?

Posted by: CYork1 | June 13, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Capello said "You have to accept the mistake of the keeper. You have to accept the mistake of the referees. You have to accept the mistake of the forwards."

Was he speaking in the abstract or is he questioning a call?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 13, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not blaming Clark entirely for the goal, I do not think he played well enough to get the start Friday.

It must be Torres. The second half of the Turkey match featured some of the best US soccer I've seen the past few years. Much of that credit goes to Torres.

Bob? Are you listening?

Posted by: McBride33 | June 13, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

@ I-270, maybe an offside call? There was a point when (I think) Heskey started a run with his feet onside (which was remarked upon on the replay) but actually leaning his upper body forward for offside (which went unremarked).

However, I take the thrust of Capello's remarks to be that his coaching was flawless.

Posted by: dccal | June 13, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The problem is, I think the defense and Howard are absorbing a lot of pressure, and for most of the game dealt with it. This makes Bob's heart soar, so he doesn't change anything.

What he is not seeing is that the reason we have to defend so stoutly and courageously is that our midfield is being totally bypassed defensively, and we are not creating possession or stringing passes. Clark is the reason.

The reason I think Bob likes him so much is that their personalities are so similar. Neither Clark nor Bradley moves to fix a problem before it is realized, whether it is a sub or a late diving tackle when Gerrard has already scored.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | June 13, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

yes Ricardo Clark got caught WATCHING! Bench him fast.

Posted by: Conservativemindsareinshackles | June 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

re: Capello regarding himself as flawless:

Milner? Green?

Posted by: jhorstma | June 13, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Torres is needed. Defense is just as good. Much more capable transition man from defense through midfield; which Clark can't do.

Posted by: Alsatian1 | June 13, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Danger Man is a superhero who wears a yellow and black diagonal striped suit and carries weapons such as the orange cone blaster and the yellow tape lariat.

well that really clears things up @I270!

Posted by: DCB23 | June 13, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Happy to help.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 13, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else wondering what took so long to use our subs?
Posted by: CYork1 | June 13, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Bob Bradley's running the team?

Posted by: HowdyDCU | June 13, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

i-270, I think that was more of a 'hey, sometimes sh*t happens, and all you can do is look forward' moment, rather than a particular call out.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | June 13, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Judging by how the US team seems to organize the defense under Bob Bradley I think there is plenty of reason to think Clark may not have been at fault. He probably was at least partially at fault and likely was the most in error. Yet, there are ways in which B. Bradley, M. Bradley, Bocanegra, Onyewu, or Clark could each be most at fault.

The US has been consistently using a zonal marking system with little man marking and even less from either of the two defensive center mids. For years now M. Bradley just floats around all game and is almost never actually marking someone. On the goal he was about 15 yards from Lampard, while everyone is close to someone else. Bradley leaves the exact space that Gerrard runs into to close late on Lampard. Why is Bradley in that space before the throw? It is most likely that he is either out of position at first or leaves a space he should be marking (or the coaching is bad enough that he could be wherever he wants). Gooch also leaves that space to follow Rooney which seems like a good idea generally. But that is not how the US usually defends. There are two dmids that are supposed to be there and center backs are rarely supposed to follow plays into the midfield. It is possible Clark rightly thought one of the two was supposed to be behind him.

Clark may have been collapsing on Rooney, usually a smart idea, but the pass ran by him. From at least one angle it certainly looks like Clark is going towards Rooney until the ball runs by. This Clark collapsing on Rooney happened a lot and may have even been implemented by the coaching staff. Our outside backs almost always pinch into the middle to help mark and leave the wings wide open. They are almost always inside the width of the 18 yard box and this also seems to be by design. Boca was definitely jogging back towards exactly where Gerrard ran into and was closest to him for a quick second. Having the best view of the marking and being the captain he probably could have run a little harder and at least pressured Gerrard some.

In the end it probably was Clark's fault regardless of any coaching or positional mistakes, because he should have adjusted on the fly to cover for all of the above. That said, I have some doubt that Bob Bradley has implemented any coherent defensive system that will work consistently outside of Concacaf. It has been a long time since the Us posted a shutout. Even in the great Confed Cup of US awesomeness the US gave up 3 goals in more than half their games.

Posted by: Dancy1 | June 13, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Goal was Clark's fault, but he should still start on Fri.

I thought starting Clark was a bad decision. However, now he has experienced the pace of a World Cup game, which Torres, Edu, and Feilhaber have not. That makes Clark the best choice from here on out.

Posted by: garbageout | June 13, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't recall hearing Donovan's name being mentioned much. What was the reason?

Posted by: Bartolo1 | June 13, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

i would like to see buddle start up top as well.

also was not impressed with altidore who i normally love. he had one nice run. he missed an easy header from donovan.

buddle plays with donovan day in and day out. that helps out.

findley did nothing.

essenctially another wc game we didnt score.
thanks R. Green.

Posted by: castroviejo | June 13, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

@Dancy1: exactly. Everyone and their brother sees the obvious but nobody except you paid attn to what started the fire. M Bradley was the guy who left Lampard open at least 10 yrds away. Does he know what can happen when Lampard gets the ball? Everyone also knows Edu is a better player tactically and technically than Clark. I don't know why BB rides Rico's nutsack so hard. We also know playing two ball winners like Bradley and Clark will have us chasing the entire game.

Make sure Robert Green gets a Christmas card this year. :)

Posted by: Charisma_Man | June 13, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Capello said "You have to accept the mistake of the keeper. You have to accept the mistake of the referees. You have to accept the mistake of the forwards."

Was he speaking in the abstract or is he questioning a call?

Posted by: I-270Exit1

i think hes talking about making wine again

Posted by: VTUnited | June 13, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Well, even if it is clarks fault, is it a benchable offense. You know sometimes you have to let people play through mistakes and it helps to know your coach and team has your back. With that said, I wanted to see Torres even in the england game. I think BB is a pretty good coach who has deserved this whole cycle.

I think new blood could be in order regardless of how we do. I would love to see bob coach in the EPL. maybe he can take hodgesons spot at fullham...hmm....but i kinda doubt it.

Posted by: wordup1 | June 14, 2010 2:42 AM | Report abuse

Why Why Why is Ricardo Clark on the field.
Out of all the subs, he kept him on the field. Torres much better with possesion and passing.
Clark should even have thought of collapsing on Rooney since Gooch stepped up. His responsibility was to drop into that open area immediately which he didn't.
I really hope he doesn't play Clark on Friday. Our center mids ddin't create much as all during the game and i really haven't seen RC be creative in possession and pushing the ball up.
He should have been subbed out.

Posted by: Redskins2881 | June 14, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

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