I watched a match last night in sunny East Hartford, Connecticut, but there were few bright spots on the pitch. The US is going to the World Cup while the Czech Repiblic is not, but you couldn't have known that based on the performance. The American crowd of over 36,000 was fired up, but they went home disappointed.
Neither team was at full strength, and it is no surprise that the European side has more depth than the Americans, but well-known weaknesses became even more glaring in a poor second half for the Yanks.
Left back is looking like a serious problem. Heath Pearce and Jonathan Bornstein are both terrible, and neither should be anywhere near the continent of Africa in June. That leaves Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Spector. Bocanegra is the team captain, and plays left back for Rennes in France, so he would seem the obvious choice. But he may have to slide into the middle because of health issues with Oguchi Onyewu and Jay Demerit. If that happens, Spector will probably start at LB. He is adequate, but it is not his natural position, and he doesn't give much going forward. If everybody is fit and in form, the back line of Bocanegra (LB), Onyewu (CB), Demerit (CB), and either Spector or Steve Cherundolo on the right, should be solid enough to get the US through group C.
Defense is going to be an issue though, and that puts a huge amount of pressure on goalkeeper Tim Howard. A friend recently told me he considers Howard to be 1 of the top 5 goalkeepers in the world. I am not prepared to go that far, but he is probably in the top 10. That is important. Those of you who remember the US's improbably run to the quarterfinals in 2002 will know that Brad Friedel was unbelievable in that tournament, and a big part of the success the Yanks enjoyed in South Korea and Japan. Tim Howard is certainly capable of a similar performance.