Positive display enough to give O’Neill plenty of food for thought
Brady’s stock has soared again and in McGoldrick and Christie we have found two prospects
The Republic of Ireland’s James McClean scores his side’s third goal against the USA at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
A comprehensive victory that should alleviate some of the pain from last Friday’s defeat in Glasgow.
We need to start with Robbie Brady’s excellent display. It was a delight to see him perform so effectively at this level. It’s about finding a place for him in the side and Martin O’Neill obviously hoped left back could be the role he fills long term.
No one ever doubted his ability but there are questions about his positional sense. He was too easily beaten on several occasions by Alejandro Bedoya, who’s a good winger, but that was offset by his quality in possession. He has the football brain to adapt and improve. His delivery from set pieces was a major asset all through the game.
Then there was that free-kick. There isn’t another left-footer like him in the squad. Stephen Ward is a converted centre forward playing full back, Brady is a converted midfielder who might have ended that debate.
Now, being defensively solid against Poland in March is job number one. He won’t get much time at left back for Hull in the meantime. His first goal was clinical, when he combined well with David McGoldrick, but his second was wonderful.
That giftAndy ReidDenis Irwin
My eyes kept drifting to the two new caps in O’Neill’s line-up. McGoldrick did really well for the first goal, combining with Anthony Pilkington in midfield before a slick return pass, which Pilkington dinked over Bill Hamid.
It was the ideal start.
McGoldrick has an interesting running gait. Looks like a player brimming with confidence but I’ve seen it before and that type of player doesn’t always roll up his sleeves when the moment demands it.
Twice Brady played the ball into him, he didn’t get to it, but instead of haring after the lost cause he stood still. That speaks volumes. Chasing hard is a prerequisite if you are to play in a successful Irish side. It felt like someone reminded him of this at half-time. He ran harder.
Like Brady, Cyrus Christie was composed on the ball and eager to get past his winger. Snappy pass and away he went. However, the US goal left him exposed. Again, like McGoldrick, he rose to the occasion in the second half.
He’s ahead of David Meyler in the right back stakes now and looks a genuine alternative to Séamus Coleman.
There was more time and space last night. That meant our central midfielders were always going to look better. Stephen Quinn impressed me again – worked hard, knocked the ball about and should be retained in a three-man midfield – but when it went wrong Christie and Meyler, playing in his preferred midfield role, were at fault.
Meyler took a throw-in, turned and tried to play a short ball to Christie but he lost possession to Mix Diskerud. That meant our right back was in no man’s land. Ciaran Clark got across and covered for him but this demanded Christie fill in for his centre half. He didn’t react in time and that provided the Americans with the free man in front of Shay Given’s goal. A moment of hesitancy in an otherwise impressive debut.
The USA provided a decent test because of the fluency and familiarity with each other. Seven of their players featured at the World Cup last summer. They know each other’s roles.
Meyler was also struggling in the holding role. He lacks the discipline almost perfected by Glen Whelan.
There was an improved fluidity in the Irish passing. A massive leap from the game at Celtic Park. They need to play like this, passing through midfield in every game.
It was a shame O’Neill couldn’t field something closer to his best team though . James McClean, Aiden McGeady and Shane Long breathed life into the game. Granted, the squad needed to be rewarded.
But there were plenty of positives. Brady’s stock has soared again, Quinn remains a real option in the middle and in McGoldrick and Christie we have two new ball players.
What we witnessed here could become the squad’s definitive style and shape (with a little tweak in midfield). If not we’ll be back to chasing shadows when the qualifiers resume. But 4-1 is a good night in any man’s language.