Slovenia 2, USA 3: A Look Back

BuddleSlovenia (Getty)

The U.S. men's national team's 3-2 victory over Slovenia broke down into two parts. The exciting and encouraging offensive display in the first half and the shaky and discouraging debacle in the second half.

It was an important win for Jurgen Klinsmann, who ends his first year in charge of the United States on a winning note, and an encouraging note after an otherwise lackluster start.

We were treated to Fabian Johnson's first start for the United States, and the first match mainly using a 4-4-2 formation. We saw Edson Buddle make a statement, and Michael Bradley remove any doubts about whether or not he should be a regular starter.

We saw some negatives as well, particularly with a back-line that just didn't work well together. Timmy Chandler had his worst game since moving over to left back while Clarence Goodson saw his national team stock drop back to post 2009 Gold Cup final levels.

Here was my Fox Soccer column on the match, as well as my USA player grades. Feel free to give those a read and share your own thoughts on the match now that you've had a few days to digest the final U.S. national team match of the year.

Share your thoughts below.

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69 Responses to Slovenia 2, USA 3: A Look Back

  1. Fred says:

    “debacle” ? I disagree. Sure we conceded one goal. We did not concede an equalizer for 30 minutes. We won the game. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but iI respectfully disagree that the second half was a debacle.

  2. downintexas says:

    Would still like to see a natural left back play for the US. Chandler is good and still learning but think he is better on the wings were he is playing in Germany.

  3. Tom says:

    When is Holden due back?

  4. Indigo Montoya says:

    Spring 2012. Unfortunately.

  5. JL says:

    I am going to say something that is going to cause a stir…I don’t like the player Dempsey has become. Does he put in a solid goal regularly, absolutely. But his work rate and teamwork are big negatives on a team that needs both to be good. It seems like when he comes to the national team, he knows he has a free pass to do what he wants, and frequently plays outside of the team concept. His missed open passes, shots from too far out that end up in row Z have become too regular for me. I miss the Deuce who was the hardest working player, and still had the gamebreaking skills. I also think his gestures and body language with teammates is pretty sorry.

    I would like to see him move out wide where he made his name, and have Johnson in that attacking role, and Donovan on the other wide spot. That would be fun to watch, with Bradley being a two player.

  6. Tom says:

    Thanks! At least he will be back for World Cup qualifying.

  7. MemRook says:

    Ives, I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem: ever since the fox sports website has updates their site to include a more seamless mobile version, it’s impossible for me to locate your stories that you link to. It ALWAYS directs me to ther main mobile page. Is there any way to fix this so that your links work for mobile devices as well? Thanks, longtime reader and original SBI mafia-er, MemRook.

  8. Tom says:

    Anyone know the date of the game that we play in January at The Home Depot Center and who we will be playing?

  9. Scott from Austin says:

    The only real problem with Chandler’s play in the match was that he spent all his time forward with Fabian Johnson, the winger ahead of Chandler, also playing really high. If both left sided players spend all their time on offense, of course there will be a lot of space in behind, on the left. This coupled with Beckerman’s lack of ability to cover much ground as the d-mid, i.e. he is really slow, our defensive left got exposed. But debacle seems pretty overstated.

  10. MemRook says:

    JL, I have been a lifetime Deuce for, since his early days with Revs (loved the original goal celebrations) and now he plays with my alltime favorite club team. And of course duh the nats.

    I agree 100% unfortunately. He’s lacking something with the USA lately. Maybe it’s better players around him like he has at Fulham, but even with them it’s like something is missing. I hate to see it and worse ot say it, but I agree.

    With Deuce, it’s like thar supersmart, supertalented kid you knew in high school, who could do whatever he wanted, but threw it away on drugs or other bad choices. It makes you annoyed! Like, what I wouldn’t do with thar talent and those opportunities! I just wanna see MORE you know?

  11. Scott from Austin says:

    He does seem to pout and exaggerate injuries too much with the National Team, I agree. He needs to stop complaining to the ref a few times each game and just get on with it. There was even a point against Slovenia where he tried to foul a couple guys one after the other and succeeded on the second man. I was astonished he got away without a card. He certainly needs to cut out the cynical stuff. But I think Klinsy wants him to roam freely and take some chances, and did some great work against Slovenia. Dempsey has said he liked his new role, and he is creating some good play. With more focus and hard work he can be an elite playmaker as far as I am concerned.

  12. Stephen says:

    Just rewatched the match today. Good overall performance. Some defensive lapses in the second half. But overall an encouraging game from an attacking standpoint.

    I know we have struggled defensively but I still think our strength is in midfield and I’ve been saying this for a while, we should move to a 3-5-2. All of our current and up and coming talent is in the midfield, and we should utilize it.

    It would look something like this (depth chart in no particular order):

    ———Dempsey(Benny, Donovan)—-
    ————Jones (Edu,Becks)———

    The wingers are true wingers and would run the lengthe of the field for defensive cover. It could also shift to a more defensive formation with 2 D-mids and 2 wingers and 1 attacking mid. All of this is based on who is currently in the Nats picture and the defenders are based on who the current defenders are. With some quicker up and coming defenders, there is more room for this formation because that is what is needed, quick defenders. This is a formation that utilizes our talent which is all in midfield, unless some of our D-Mids switch to central defense (i.e. Edu, although he panics when pressured too much for my liking; or Williams).

  13. Stephen says:

    Also, there are fringe players like Klejstan, Whitbread and Spector who would also fit nicely in this formation (i.e. Spector at central defense).

  14. Advocate says:

    We can’t play with a lone striker unless our midfield has the skill to play a dynamic passing game; without that midfield movement, our single striker is isolated and has little chance to create danger. After being impressed by Jozy’s hold up play, I’d be interested in seeing Dempsey moved to forward, supported by a midfield of Donovan, Bradley, Holden (when healthy), and Shea. I think this puts our best, most dynamic players on the pitch and allows us to create danger in attack. Is it risky defensively? Maybe a bit….but if we’re going to take risks to become better, this is how we do it, in my opinion.

  15. Thomas says:

    You guys are seriously questioning are one truely world class player (Howard aside)!?!?

    There are other things to worry about long before we question Dempsey’s teamwork and work rate. He plays the same way for Fulham. Taking on long shots, getting fouled regularly, always pissed at his teammates for not passing to him and continually passing up the obvious pass for a chance at goal. That’s what he does, that’s why he’s who he is and where he is. If he changes so does our national team. Get Dempsey the ball as much as possible in as central a location as possible. He has no clue how to cross a ball, but he can strike the hell out of one.

  16. Stephen says:

    You have to go to the scroll down menu and select soccer. The stories are in a list on that page.

  17. Aaron in StL says:

    I don’t see why there’s a need to have Badson keep coming in for looks. Move on to younger CB’s that we need to develop for 2014. It’s not as if Clarence will be a starter then in his early 30’s.

  18. Thomas says:

    I have no clue how a 3-5-2 works, but I imagine it would turn into a 5-3-2 very quickly against a good team?

    Can anyone explain the concept because we obviously have enough midfielders for it, especially defensive ones if that’s what it requires.

  19. KMac says:

    I seem to remember Chandler (who I like by the way) holding Matavz onside by behing TOO FAR behind Boca and Goodson, allowing him to go through unchallenged for he first goal. That can be corrected with reps. I remember him shutting down Ecuador’s Valencia completely-a great job. Looking at his body of work, he is the best we have right now unless someone like Loyd jumps a level of play. After some of the left back play of the last few years since Eddie Lewis retired.

  20. Stephen says:

    The 3 defenders have to communicate well and stay pretty much central and we have to rely on the wingers to cover the wings.

  21. hogatroge says:

    Well… let’s wish Eric Lichaj a speedy and full recovery. He looked more comfortable on the left side during the Gold Cup than Chandler has of late. That way Chandler can slot in on the right side more easily.

  22. SWED says:

    After the past couple of games, I feel like Klinsman is doing nothing more than experimenting. With that in mind, why not try the folloing?

    Altidore / Landon

    Thoughts? Wish we had a speedy CB. Holden, Mixx, Bedoya are all promising and should fight for starts in yrs ahead. Gatt and Boyd offer more help on the way. Can Landon play up top with Altidore?

  23. Tom says:

    Holden will be a starter and Boyd is big and looks very promising!

  24. luke says:

    wrong. chandler is a right back. played right mid only once recently, and had a terrible game until he was moved to right back.

  25. luke says:

    latest rumor: 2 january games. in panama january 25 then in seattle vs guatemala on the 28th. nothing is for sure

  26. Tom says:

    No game at the Home Depot Center?

  27. Ken says:

    According to Wiki, we play Panama on 1/25 in Panama and Guatemala on 1/28 in Seattle. Nothing in HDC.

  28. Tom says:

    That sucks! I enjoy going to that game every year in January. Wish we would get some better game than those as well.

  29. Darwin says:

    It was rather disgusting to watch. And, just as Dolo said in the post-game interview, they stopped playing soccer.

  30. Darwin says:

    Welcome to the soccer world. The locker room at Craven Cottage, and in any top league, is dog eat dog. Whine all you want. It is a friendly, and Deuce knows that if he gets DeJong’ed there are two dudes that will make his comeback hell. He can’t afford a setback. I’m not saying its right, but every top national team experiences the same for their top players.

  31. abc says:

    Yes they conceded one, but it could have easily been four. And that’s not counting every opportunity, just the two shots off the post and one easy chance.

  32. abc says:

    He will have been out injured for a full year when he’s finally back. We have no idea how long it will take him to get back to his pre-injury performance level (see Onyewu, who got back just months ago, and Davies, who probably never will).

  33. abc says:

    Yes but that is really freaking annoying. Why won’t links work? It’s so frustrating I don’t click on Fox sports links anymore.

  34. SwerveZ says:

    and a volleyball handball in the box on Dempsey,s shot! What about Altidore’s muff 2 yards from goal in the first half? Pathetic miss and a clear PK. Also, if this were a real match, at least 2 red cards would have been shown…

  35. SwerveZ says:

    Exactly. First of all, any jack*ss comes in two footed on him, he lets the attacker and the ref know he’s gotta keep putting food on the table. I’ve read his lips. He keeps it in perspective and that look on his face is serious Texas. Don’t mess.
    In terms of his work rate and skill, you gotta be kidding me if you think he’s not trying. Have a look at the runs he makes to space. Sometimes he gets the ball, sometimes he doesn’t; and with amazing players around him, he’d get the ball more.
    And about his long distance shots? You’re gonna tell him to stop? How many shots from outside the box has he made in his career?

  36. Dennis says:

    Dempsey is clearly very talented, creative and works pretty darn hard. I do wonder if he might not be up to being a team leader, which would be a natural role for a player with his talent. He does some great things, but he does not seem to make the players around him better in the way some real stars like Gretzky could do.

    The USA presently has 4 players who look like they can do quite well as attacking mids (Dempsey, Bradley, Donavon and Johnson) and in 6 months or so you can probably add Holden to that list. With the injuries that happen, it would be nice to have one or two more. At DM, there is Beckerman, Jones, Bradley. Again not an overwhelmingly deep list, but longer than most positions on the team.

  37. Lil' Zeke says:

    Dont forget JJ, poor guy

  38. Dennis says:

    Also, I think this places a greater need for the wide midfielders to track back all the way on defense to pressure crosses, for the central mids to pressure to prevent through balls and for the backs to all be good in the air, communicate very well and be able to read quickly when to push up and when to drop off.

    Nothing special in all of this, except in degree and it does put more of an responsibility on the backs to stay back and not try to get into the attack very often.

  39. Louis Z says:

    The way Boyd is playing he has a very good chance at making the 2014 roster. replacing who? good question.

  40. Tyrone says:

    Goodson has actually been pretty consistent in the matches he’s played for us since becoming one of our first-choice defenders. He’s solid in the air and I’ve seen him make vital clearance regularly. He was having a solid game against France up til the Remy goal, and although he was somewhat shaky against Slovenia, the rest of the backline was shaky as well. I’m not saying he should be our first choice come 2014, but he certainly hasn’t earned that moniker you gave him.

  41. GW says:


    Knee injuries typically take a while and even if the knee is actually completely
    healed it takes some players a while to be
    fully confident in the knee.

    It took Gooch pretty much two years before he got back to his old self.

    If you were betting on it, I’d say he’d be lucky to be back to his best just before the World Cup.

    JK would be a fool to count on his availabilty and hopefully he will have a suitable replacement for him by the time he returns.

  42. Nick says:

    Mixx, Klejstan, Adu, and Feilhaber all need looks at attacking mid.

  43. GW says:

    The US could easily have beaten Ghana and gone on to the semi-finals but they didn’t becuase close does not count.

    This is soccer not figure skating where you get judges and style points.

  44. GW says:

    Lichaj is a couple of notches below Chandler as a soccer player and a notch below him him as a left back.

    Yes, I know he shut down Bale once but that was as a right back and besides what has he done since. Anyone can have one great game. Jonny Bornstein marked Leo Messi out of the game in the Copa America in 2007.

    Chandler shut down Belgium’s Hazard, a pretty hot player in his first game as a left back. He then did a very good job on Man U’s Valencia in the Ecuador game. This is his first bad game and it was because he spent too much time getting forward, something he may have been ordered to do and something that is easily correctable.

    If and when Dolo gives it up it will be a lot easier to find a right back to replace him than to find a left back to replace Chandler.

    Or maybe you haven’t been paying attention for at least the last six or so years.

  45. DingDong says:

    I’m surprised we’re allowed to play Guatemala, given that they’re in our group in qualifying.

  46. DelusionsofGrandeur says:

    All Slovenia did was take a page out of France playbook. Launch long ball. France couldn’t break the American defense then it started launching long ball and got a score. The same thing happen in the Slovenia game, after the their first goal US was dominating the rest of the first half. Then second half comes they launch long ball and bam got their opportunities.

  47. pd says:

    you are all smoking crack.

  48. pd says:

    until Lichaj gets regular time as a starter we’re more likely to see Willias at RB and Chandler continuing on the left side.

  49. GW says:

    Dempsey plays for the US because, even with all these new players and a new manager, he and Landon are the only consistent scoring threats the US has had in the past and have today. The only ones. Look it up.

    And Landon is the only US player who can lift the team by himself and make them play better. Clint hasn’t been asked to do that in the past and he does not have the same amount of experience at it that Donovan does.

    Shut those two down and the US is finished; and everyone in the soccer world knows that.

    When Clint’s teamates at Fulham and on the USMNT sign a petition and go to the manager and whine about how Clint’s gestures and words and attitude make them feel bad ( the poor dears) then I will worry about that crap.

    Until then I will look at his behavior and say it’s pretty normal for a guy who has become the most important and consistent scoring threat for his EPl and National team and is in the form of his life.

    He has gotten better every year.

  50. TomG says:

    The US defense was awful from the first minute on when they were broken by a chip over the top. Slovenia wasn’t going over the top because they couldn’t break the US defense, they were going over the top because the US backline was as jagged as pit bull’s mouth. They couldn’t play a proper offside trap and there were huge gaps between the midfield and the defense. Fortunately the trap is pretty easy to fix and the lack of cohesion may get better as this was the first time playing this formation under Klinsi.

  51. TomG says:

    Our defense is bad in a 4-4-2 and you eant to switch to LESS defenders? I have one word for what would happen: EVISCERATION. Very few teams in the world can play with only 3 in the back. The key to that formation is skill on the ball and possession. Barca can play with 3 defenders because they can play keep away. Skill on the ball and possession are the 2 WORST aspects of our team.

  52. TomG says:

    Maybe against a poorer team that bunkers 10 or 11 behind the ball it might work. Versus better teams we’d need another CM to possess, distribute and defend. Ideally, that’s Holden. Maybe Torrres if he is healthy. Maybe Mixx or Gill in 2 years. Right now? Fabian plays some CM for Hoffenheim, so I’d pair him with Bradley in CM and put speed on the wings with Lando and Shea, pairing Deuce and Jozy up front.

  53. marco says:

    Both Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream get knocked off the ball too easily. I can’t why some technique and muscle can’t be gained.

  54. LD says:

    Bocanegra got away with a clear, deliberate handball in the box in this game. On another note there aint no way the good ole USA was gonna beat Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup

  55. Hush says:

    Adu & Mixx I completely agree! … Sasha? I’m still hoping he can make a one time switch to Cananada. That clown can score & play all he wants, he is not International caliber…. He makes Beckerman look like Xavi Alonso.

    I don’t think there is room for Benny anymore. I would take Torres before him. And ADU before both of them.

  56. Hush says:

    Adu & Mixx I completely agree! … Sasha? I’m still hoping he can make a one time switch to Cananada. That clown can score & play all he wants, he is not International caliber…. He makes Beckerman look like Xavi Alonso.

    I don’t think there is room for Benny anymore. I would take Torres before him. And ADU before both of them.

  57. PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo says:

    Replacing Boca! He’s a left footed CB and will be fading by then…

  58. Sid says:

    Mix wreaks

  59. Ron says:

    Buddle should have been starting a long time ago. He will never be hotter than he was with the Galaxy.

    Thanks Bob Bradley

  60. Brian says:

    The euro-softies are weak

  61. john says:


    Start Buddle and Donovan up top! They have chemistry from their time on the LA Galaxy.

  62. away goals says:

    Might want to reserve a midfield spot for fabian johnson. Small sample size obviously, but he could prove to be very dynamic indeed.

  63. away goals says:

    Whew. Glad that’s settled then. I woke up this morning in a panic wondering if the us would have won a hypothetical game 18 months ago.

  64. Adam M. says:

    Its a generalization, but there are basically three types of mids: (1) Defensive holding (Mascherano), (2) Playmaking (Xavi), and (3) attacking forwards that aren’t strikers (Ronaldo). Dempsey obviously isn’t meant to be 1, is very average at 2, and is pretty good at 3, but clearly not elite. The problem is that we don’t have a healthy solid 2 right now (maybe Johnson) and Dempsey, as our best overall player, has been spending more time at 2 in a role he isn’t ideally suited for which makes him less good at 3. The freedom that Dempsey wants/needs will work much better for everyone if Dempsey can hand the keys to the offense to a real 2.

  65. AP says:

    I’d rather lose 3-0 playing with two forwards than lose 1-0 playing with one guy up front.

  66. Kosh says:

    Of couse you would, that’s because you don’t get fired for it at the end of the day.

    Not that losing 1-0 is good but getting consistently routed is now the way to keep a coaching job…at least that’s what I heard on the Internets.

  67. Scott e Dio says:

    I still don’t understand Klinsmann’s fetish with defensive midfielders. Johnson did great & very stick player, good to see Williams get as a defender,both pairing up top did well.

  68. pancholama says:

    I’m gonna put Fabian Johnson, Stewart Holden and Jose Francisco Torres in that role for now – only one is healthy. Others suggestions for holding / play-making midfield role, people? Feilhaber – good vision, good passing, a Brazilian “savoir faire” about opening the field with one pass – but really hasn’t the pace for international or World Cup play. Kun Aguero and Gio dos Santos were competing with Adu for golden boot at the U20 WC in 2007. When Adu plays like Aguero I will eat my hat. Wherefore art thou US soccer Michael Jordan?