NASHVILLE -- Three quick thoughts after the U.S.'s 1-0 loss against Paraguay here on Tuesday:
1. Never mistake activity for achievement. The famous old John Wooden phrase could have applied on Tuesday to the U.S., which initiated more attacks than it did in a 1-1 tie against Argentina on Saturday but was rarely that dangerous in this game. The Americans had a number of useful thrusts down the right side thanks to Timmy Chandler and second-half sub Eric Lichaj, but the midfield distribution was subpar, especially in the first half (Maurice Edu had a rough stint). In addition, the left side never got going and the shooting of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan was off on several occasions. Juan Agudelo came back to earth in his first U.S. start, and Jozy Altidore continued to look out of sorts, like a guy who hasn't played much at the club level lately (which he hasn't). Paraguay is no slouch, obviously, but a home loss is a home loss. Remember, Mexico spanked Paraguay 3-1 on Saturday.
2. Paraguay is a hard team to play. This was a much better performance by the South Americans than they had in the Mexico loss, but it shouldn't have been all that surprising to anyone who saw Paraguay reach the World Cup quarterfinals by playing a frustrating but effective style. Niggling fouls and chippy play harried the U.S. attackers, and even when opportunities arose for the Americans, they dissipated quickly. One play in the second half illustrated that: the U.S.'s Dempsey momentarily got free on the left side in the attacking third, but before he knew it Dempsey was surrounded by three Paraguayans who choked off his dribbling options and snuffed out the chance. On the couple occasions when the U.S. did unspool venomous shots, Paraguayan goalkeeper Justo Villar made sterling saves on Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
3. Timmy Chandler is a keeper. The German-American turned 21 today and celebrated by making his first U.S. start and ensuring that more will be in his future. Whether he's playing as a right back or right midfielder, Chandler is a force of nature using his speed to push up the flank, and he also showed an ability to combine well with right back Lichaj, who came on in the second half. Is Chandler in a position to unseat Steve Cherundolo (currently injured) as the starter in the Gold Cup? Probably not yet, but he has certainly put himself in the conversation with his first two promising games in a U.S. uniform.
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